Friday, May 10, 2013

Sting Like a Bee

We have these really aggressive carpenter bees that tend to hang around the back steps like they own that piece of the 'hood. They're pretty cocky, and have been known to bounce off my son's head while he runs screaming into the house, ditching his backpack and whatever else he is carrying into the yard. I've tried to cajole the boy, saying that they won't sting him. But he'll have none of these half-truths. He practically begs me to walk in front of him to protect him on his journey from the car to the porch.

"Aaaaah!" His scream is like a pre-teen girl's. "Moooom, come help!"

Of course, the sounds coming from him are terrifying...and they have the gut-twisting pitch of a baby that's been dropped or pinched its finger in the door (or pinched its chin in a zipper; all of which have happened to my own children many times).

"Lucian, relax. They're not going to sting you. I sit out here all the time and they have never once come near me." Another half-truth. The little buzzy bastards get pretty darn close to scope me out. I just blow smoke at them.

"That's because they're afraid of you," he says, matter-of-factly. "You're meaner than they are."

I laughed at the off-color compliment. It is an honor that my son, who is a man in the making, thinks I'm tougher than a swarm of bees. His sister shares his sentiments, I think. She's had a cold of late and when I told her I thought it was allergies because I've had the same headache for nearly 5 days, her jaw dropped.

"How do you do it? You don't even act like you have a headache. Nobody would know that you have a headache right now."

What a badass, right? Me with my bee repelling force-field and my stoicism in the face of a chronic migraine...I wish. It's hard to explain to them, that for all of my physical rigidity in the face of their worst fears, I'm a total wimp. And I blame them, completely, for my wimpness. They are the source of it, just as they are the source of my Herculean strength.

My friend B (ironic I know, but I'm now talking about a real person, not an insect) has two teenage sons. Growing up, she was a mild girl, really quiet and well-behaved. Even as an adult, she's calm, hilariously funny, likes girly things and exotic food. But do not cross her when it comes to her boys. Suddenly, B will sting. Hard.

"I never really stood up for myself, didn't want to ruffle any feathers," she said, sipping coffee and being careful not to drip any on her vintage, lacy blouse. "But man, after I had kids...having kids will make a fighter out of any mother."

Then I must be a fucking gladiator. I see myself, from the inside, as a bare-chested, lean-hipped warrior, painted for battle--because battle can come at any time. When I hear Johnny Cash sing "Ain't No Grave," I hear my anthem when my children need me. No matter the situation, I am there, dirty, armed, and baring teeth.

On the outside, I am wearing a white linen dress, nautical sandals, and pink bobble earrings. Gotta take the enemy by surprise.

If the kids knew this, they'd be scared, I think. But if they knew, even for a second, how much power their existence has over mine...that would produce the greater fear. We've often had "what would you do if..." chats in the car, usually on the way to school. It makes them a little prickly in their seats.

"Mom, what would you do if the only way to keep us alive was to cut off your own arm?" My son is usually the purveyor of these cataclysmic scenarios. He's in third grade, and going through a heavy 'end of the world' phase.

"Then I'd cut off both my arms. And my legs, just to be on the safe side."

Anna's jaw drops. "That's awful. Lucian, stop asking Mom such awful questions."

"Would you die?"


"No, no, it's OK, Anna. Yes, I'd die. But I'd die knowing that you'd be safe. Otherwise, I'd die of a broken heart if anything happened to you."

He is still mulling over the whole death by broken heart thing. But then again, he's never had children. He doesn't remember the day, when he was just two years old, that he went missing in a crowd of thousands at a harvest festival. He doesn't remember that I scooped up his nearly six-year-old sister like she was a tiny bird, and pushed my way frantically through a sea of people, screaming his name, not recognizing the sound of my own voice. It was a desperate sound, a howl. He doesn't remember the look on my face when I saw him walking to me from the Lost and Found table. Or when I nearly passed out with relief and kneeled on the ground and held his sweaty little body so tight that his hat flew off and he lost a shoe. I sobbed relentlessly.

"It's OK, you gotta calm down. He's here." A friend, and non-parent said. "Everybody's looking at us."

Indeed a small, confused crowd had gathered. But the mothers knew. They knew exactly what happened when I dropped to wrap my son in my iron grip. And they were crying, too. Relieved that the fortress would not fall, at least, not that day.


  1. fair making me laugh then hitting me with the old teary-eyed sniveler voodoo! I'm actually sniffling over here! EXCELLENT READ Nichole!

    1. Thanks, Nik! Laughter through tears, the trademark emotion of being an animal momma. Happy Mother's Day!

  2. Excellent post Nichole! I don't think I would die in that situation but it would be very awkward. Happy Mother's Day.

    Hope all is well,

    Jon Swartz