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Let It Bee
A divorce and a bee infestation—these are things that can sting. Jennifer Lauck on learning to embrace what is, just as it is.
A bumblebee lifts from a hole in the ground. It rises in an unsteady fashion, as if tethered by an invisible wire. The wings move so fast the motion cannot be seen but is only heard as a humming buzz. The creature makes an adjustment and wobble-flies past my shoulder.
I lean back as it gathers direction and speed. Four-y.earold Josephine screams, runs up the porch steps and then into the house. She slams the back door so hard the house quivers. Nine-year-old Spencer hides behind me and grips my arm with such intensity the circulation is cut to my hand.
“Sweetie, my arm,” I say.
“Sorry, Mom,” Spencer says, easing up his grip.
Another bee lifts out of the hole, the same routine all over again and right behind is another.
We stand on wet grass that is overgrown and lush. I don’t mow. Mowing is a man’s job and Spencer is too young. Pretty soon, I tell myself, I’ll have to get a man or a mower. Or maybe I’ll get a gardener.
I shake my arm to get the feeling back and Spencer stands on his toes in order to peek over my shoulder.
“Will they sting us?” Spencer asks.
“Are you covered with pollen?” I put my arm around my son and cup the back of his head with my palm the way I do—something I’ve done since he was baby. It’s our mother–son habit. Our little peculiarity. His head fits my hand perfectly and he wiggles a little as if to nestle in. “Sweets,” I say, “bees are not interested in you unless you are a flower.”
Two bumblebees return to the hole, lowering their pollen loaded legs into the ground. Spencer hides his face against my arm and I decide to try humor.
“It’s like some kind of bee convention,” I say. “Grand Central Bee Terminal. A superpower pollen highway.”
Spencer chuckles, which is nice because his father says I don’t have a sense of humor. I wish he were here to see how it’s not true. I’m funny. I’m hilarious to a nine year old.
“I mean, they don’t even knock on the door and ask before they take up residence here,” I continue. “There is no lease and they don’t pay rent. What is the deal?”
Spencer laughs harder still and I roll my eyes with a great show of being outraged. He eases from around my side and goes down on one knee to get a closer look at the bee entry and departure point. The hole, if you weren’t looking for it, would be impossible to find. It is no more than the size of a dime with a small rise under the gravel.
“How many live down there?” he asks.
I lift my hands and then let them drop to my sides. “I have no idea.” Bee infestation is a man’s job, the same as mowing and car maintenance and taking out the trash.
Jo sneaks up behind us and, like her brother a moment ago, she hides behind me.
“Are they gone?” she asks.
“No, honey,” I say, “but they aren’t going to bother you. They want flowers, not little girls.”
I put my arm around Jo. She’s wearing a pink silk dress over a yellow silk dress over a neon green silk dress. She simply cannot bear to leave one of her princess dresses on a hanger so they are all on her body in layers. Under the dresses, she wears every pair of underwear too. I am thinking she might have been a refugee in a past life.
Two more bumblebees hover around the trunk of the red oak tree, unsure about a small boy so close to their landing strip. I tap Spencer and point up toward the incoming bees.
On his knees, Spencer isn’t sure what I’m trying to say and he moves his head all around. He looks like a dog down there on all fours. When he spots the hovering bees, which are lowering themselves to their home, he yelps. In a flash, both kids run back to the house and it’s just me, on the wet grass.
The bees drop to the ground and crawl into their hole.
I’ve been on my own for nearly a year. Fall, winter, spring, and now summer. It’s good. It’s right. It’s the best thing for me, for my former husband, and for the kids—who didn’t deserve to grow up in a home where the big people argued all the time. But it’s surprising how many things I delegated to my husband. I just didn’t have time or interest in infrastructure. If a wire shorted out or a pipe got clogged or the car needed oil, he was the go-to guy.