When I was five I was Batgirl. Not just on Halloween. I was Batgirl everyday, everywhere. Eventually my Mom convinced me that I didn’t need to wear the costume to be Batgirl. After all, superheroes are still superheroes even when they are in their civilian clothes. I adored Barbara Gordon just as much as I did Batgirl. She is a Librarian, a real hero in my book.
I went into first grade at a Catholic school run by nuns. (I wore a tan uniform on regular days and an all-white one they called our gala uniform for when there was Mass on a special day. But this is irrelevant. Anyway…) One afternoon after school I was snooping around the nuns’ cloister and found a giant fruit bat, the famous flying fox, hanging upside down from the rafters. I don’t know how big it actually was, but six-year-old me remembers it as humungous. I may as well have seen God. I trembled in awe and fear, backed away with my wide eyes glued, hoping the creature does not fix its powerful gaze upon me.
For the rest of my life the Bat owns me. I invoke her powers when I need resonance and echolocation, courage in darkness, rest in uncomfortable circumstances.
Like that time in New York City when I met the Man I would marry. It was the middle of a blizzard. He invited me to his place on Staten Island, a Victorian Mansion haunted with giant ceramic demons hanging from trees, feathered Indians made of stone, and life size Nativity figures looking out from inside the street-level fence. Indoors there were grand pianos, antique furniture piled on top of each other, a billiards table in the basement, and taxidermy birds, fox and a giant elk head mounted on the other side of the wall his third floor bedroom loft was against. By the time I got in his bed, we had already been out three times and I was wondering why he wouldn’t make a move on me. So I kissed him. That was all it took. It unleashed in him the giant wild horned beast just a wall away from our heads. We fell in love.
There was one afternoon when he and I walked from the Mansion to the Staten Island Ferry bound for Manhattan. He stopped me, and bent to pick up a black plastic Batman ring on the snow-white ground. Then he took my left hand and slipped the toy on my ring finger. Realizing what he’d just done, we both became nervous. A strong gust of cold river wind hit us. I pondered it all while the winding winter wind whipped at us. At that time I hadn’t yet told him I was Batgirl. What was going on? Who gave him a clue? And most importantly, did it mean I could hang upside down with him for the rest of my life? The Lenape natives called the large island south of Manhattan Aquehonga Manacknong, “Sandy Shores and Haunted Forests.” Those island ghosts knew.
Decades later, my Elk-Man and I live together in a big old 19th century farmhouse with a barn attic full of antique furniture, art, and toys of our own. I’m still Batgirl and this is where I hang.