As the fiery red July sun sank lower on the horizon, finally disappearing behind Mitchell’s barn, the first bats of the summer evening swooped low, along the maple trees in our yard. Their small, dark shadowy figures glided effortlessly along the lowest branches and dotted the skies over the clothesline at the side of the old house.
The little brown bats returned to our yard every spring and mothers produced just one baby each year, usually around the middle of June. By the end of July the babies took their first flights as they were weaned off of their mother and began to eat insects. Although some people were afraid that the bats would fly into their hair, they emitted a high frequency sound that bounced back and prevented them from colliding with anything other than the mosquitoes that they feasted on nightly.
Because they were nocturnal creatures, we never saw them in the daytime as they hung upside down under the eaves of the roof, or sought out shelter in the attic above the kitchen. It was right around sunset that we’d see them begin to soar around the yard, swooping and gliding along the branches, seeking out the bloated pests that had been dining on us as we sat outside in the evening.
Mother and Dad didn’t seem to mind sharing the yard with the bats and they would continue to sit in their lawn chairs, sharing a plate of oatmeal cookies; Dad with a coffee in hand and Mother with her lemonade. The days were hot, often humid and the only form of air conditioning in the old house was to open a window and hope for the best. Sitting outside under the big maple trees in the evening was a nice way to cool down and reflect on the events of the day. We’d glance down the lane and watch the odd cars going by on the third line and see them begin to turn their headlights on for the night.
The crickets and bullfrogs would be in full chorus by then, as more and more bats appeared and the sky had become a dark cloak, shrouding their movements in secrecy. Small flashes of light moved along the front garden as the fireflies began their nightly parade, competing with the bats for our attention.
As the summer season unfolded, there would be many nights like this. We’d sit outside to cool down after a long hot day and became the audience for the sunset performance of the small brown bats and their aerial show. Mother and Dad would eventually rise from their lawn chairs and fold them up for the evening; carrying their empty cups and the scattered crumbs remaining on the cookie plate. The bats would continue their hunt for food long after we’d gone into the old house, gliding and darting in the yard as we slumbered peacefully through the warm summer night.