Thank you for indulging me over the past few months, as I’ve shared stories written by my mom, the McAdoo Marvel. These are the last two pieces of her work she left me. But there will always be more stories in my heart. I hope you enjoy these.
Up to Bat
Bats have radar, used to avoid running into things – believed! Bats are not attracted to light – believed! Bats carry rabies – believed! Bats bite – believed! Bats get tangled in your hair – believed!
I suppose we thought everything we heard about bats was true. I should have known better; I was 16. I did have doubts about the tangling, but that was all. Billie was working in Los Alamos, so she no longer lived with us. Mama and Louise worked nights for TWA Airlines - Mama as a cook, and Louise a plane cleaner. Louise brought home some really neat stuff. Unused apricot nectar and pineapple juice, plus other edible, and sometimes non-edible, things. The only unusual event was that Aunt Vesta, Mama’s older sister, lived with us, and slept in the double bed in the dining room until Mama got home.
Our feelings about bats were pretty much set in stone until that horrible night. At the time, we lived in what had been an old hotel until it was converted into an apartment building. We had rooms on the second floor, and the outsides of the windows were being painted, so no screens were on our open windows. Theresa, Doris, and I slept in our usual single and double beds crammed into one room. We left the Venetian blinds down as a barricade between us and the bats. The light was left on because “bats aren’t attracted to light.”
Completely, and mistakenly, comfortable with the precautions we had taken, we went to bed. Who knew people were so dumb about bats? Soon, the attack began, but only in the room that had the light on. The bats would deliberately fly into, and hit, the closed blinds. Landing on the floor, they chose the next spot to swoop to. All the while, a little muscle just below their mouths was vibrating – their unused radar, I suppose. If they aimed for the headboard, we screamed and pulled the sheet over our heads. Poor Theresa, in the single bed, had to do it alone. Eventually, we heard her crying and saying, “I can’t take this anymore.” We peeped out, and saw a bat nonchalantly walking up her chest while she cowered under the sheet. We tried to talk her in into moving in with Aunt Vesta where she’d be safe, but she would have no part of it.
It must have been at or near daybreak when we all got some sleep. I heard Mama come in that morning, and got up to tell of all the events. When I opened the curtain that covered the broom closet, I saw one of the little critters there, sleeping upside down. When Mama saw my face turn green, she told me to go back to bed, and she would clean up. Somehow she did – got rid of everything she found sleeping with the wrong end up.
Wherefore Art Thou, Shakespeare?
They habitually told us to stay out of the attic when both parents were going to be gone. So what was one place we always went? It usually was a part of a play – more like a movie because we used the whole house for a stage. The opening to the attic was above the door between the kitchen and pantry. I don’t know how we got to the top of the door, but we did. Then it was right into the attic.
And there had to be drinking involved. We couldn’t have a play without a drink. Ours was milk, flavored with maple extract, though we pretended it was something alcoholic. All with ad-libbing, of course.
Did we all have the same DNA, with a hidden, ignored trait of acting? I don’t think so. Some of us enjoyed it, some not so much. Billie, Doris, and I did most of the performing, if everyone was home. When there was a wagon with high side boards parked nearby, and a load of cottonseed from the gin, we’d use that. But the living room was normally our stage. No matter the location, there was never an audience or a critic.
Most performances were ad-libbed, but I once wrote a play. The role I imagined for me was filled with good lines. So, naturally, Doris chose that part; it was just another one of my ideas gone astray, such as the time Doris ate lunch with me at school. There was a tradition at that time of the younger kids attending school for a day to get used to it. If they had several siblings, they would sit with different ones and attend their classes. Doris was to eat with me, so my lunch had two of everything, including oranges, one larger than the other. As the concerned, older sister, I, naturally, talked her into taking the smaller one.
“It will have more juice,” I lied. At least, I thought I lied. I peeled mine with the thick skin; Doris peeled hers with a normal skin. Who was the winner? Doris’s orange was big, with all the juice. Mine was completely dry and very small. I learned a lesson I never forgot. Even as an adult, I avoided thick-skinned oranges because I knew, without exception, they’d be dry.
I was stuck with the number three position in the play I wrote, and no one ever knew better.
But I wrote another play that I had better luck with. I totally forgot about writing it, until Billie mentioned a few years ago that her daughter, Jennifer, wrote a play in grade school that was performed for the school. That jogged my memory. I wish I’d remembered it before Mama had Alzheimer’s; maybe she would have remembered why I wrote it, who at school knew about it, and why I was asked to let the sixth and seventh grades perform it. We didn’t put it on for the school. We performed it at night, for the entire community. I don’t know whether we charged for it, but I remember we skipped morning classes to learn our roles and rehearse, just as if someone else had written the play.
If I had continued writing plays, do you suppose I could have been the next Shakespeare? Or maybe I could have given Neil Simon a run for his money and fame. Or perhaps the way it ended was best.