Sunday, September 12, 2010
Summer vacation ended with Mister crying on the couch, an ice pack behind his head and another on his arm. We had stopped at the park on our way home and he had bounded from the van to run the perimeter. When he came screaming and holding his head, I assumed he had slipped. “It bit me! It bit me,” he wailed. I scooped him up and plucked the baby from the sand, where she had just situated herself. She added protest to his agony as I double-timed it back to the van. I buckled him in, ran around and was about to fasten my own seat belt when he became seriously hysterical. “It bit me again! It bit me again!” I ran around, scooped him out of his seat and stripped him down to his unders. A hornet had stung the back of his head and fallen down the back of his shirt, only to crawl out and bite his arm once he was strapped in. I hugged him quickly and got him back in when he started kicking. The hornet was still alive and tangled in his sock. I plucked it off, and it circled my head as I slammed the door and ran around to the other side.
Since then Mister prefers to stay indoors where he is oft heard repeating to himself the mantra of both mom and preschool teacher: “Bees only sting me when they are scared. If I am not scared, they will not be scared.” And I cannot help but think of a beautiful woman I met the autumn before Mister came home.
It was my birthday and my husband had taken me on a weekend getaway in the mountains a few hours from our home. In route to the Bed and Breakfast where we would stay, I read aloud from a gut-wrenching memoir on a list of adoption must-reads we had been given by our agency. It was the story of a Black baby adopted in the 60’s by loving and oblivious white folks living in a very White small town. The experience of this man was articulating questions and apprehensions that my husband and I felt ill equipped to deal with on our own.
By God’s grace, the woman who owned the B & B was an Asian-American immigrant from Canada with a doctorate in Sociology. So when she brought us a beautiful organic breakfast the first morning I asked a question. She sat down and opened up her heart, sitting with us for two mornings, retelling her experiences growing up with immigrant parents from China and moving through the immigration process to the U.S., where she was forced to ‘choose a box’ despite a well-articulated argument about race as a social construct to which she did not want to be tied.
On our last morning she likened racism to bees. “I talk with my children and try to prepare them for what they will experience, but when my children are in a beautiful orchard I don’t want them to focus on the small bee, annoying as it may be. I try to show them the trees and the clouds and the beauty of what is around them.” I thought her answer was awesome until my son was stung twice in a span of five minutes and decided the out-of-doors, his former love, was no longer for him. When he goes outside he only sees bees. He is always looking for them. Because they hurt. Because he remembers last time he was stung. Because he questions whether or not it is worth it. There are some decent toys inside.
I have been thinking about bees a lot lately, especially when I drag my sweet, scared son from the basement into the sunlight. He usually cries at first but is distracted easily enough by the trampoline. But I still think about bees and look for them, too. My credibility cannot afford another run-in with the animal kingdom before the healing months of winter. And I think of what lies ahead- the little stinging things that ruin a perfectly good summer day and send my baby home crying.