“There would seem to be nothing
more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment.
And yet, it eludes us completely.
All of the sadness of life lies in that fact.”
“There would seem to be nothing
more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment.
And yet, it eludes us completely.
All of the sadness of life lies in that fact.”
Snow and ice covered everything, turning our yard into a magical, glittering world.
With each step, we broke through the ice crust with a satisfying crunch. Little Legs was up to his knees in the snow, red cheeked and happy, despite the cold.
“Let’s check out the bees,” Daddy Longlegs suggested and with no better options, we followed him around the house.
It was like taking a Sunday drive, one goes along not expecting to see anything but with the secret hope of spotting a loose cow or a car accident, of course, the kind where no one gets hurt.
Where I prepared to see an empty landing board on the beehive, I found a pile of fresh honeybee bodies.
“Oh God,” I cried out for divine help.
They were not yet frozen or covered in snow, so this event, whatever it was, had just happened.
A buzzing pulled me closer, a lone bee made his way out. It pushed past the bodies, stopped at the edge of the mound, and buzzed his last buzz before succumbing to the same fate as his brethren.
There were more bodies just below the pile-up that made me think of a buffalo herd going over a cliff, one after another. What could have caused this much seemingly senseless loss of life?
After an extensive review of the bee-keeping wisdom on the internet, we concluded that we did not know why they died. The colony may have removed the weaker bees that died of the cold, dysentery from waste build-up, starvation, or mites. There was a reason, but what it was, we would never know.
Nature was cruel and mysterious in her ways.
I returned the next day, with Little Legs in tow, to show our respects and clear the ledge on front of the entrance to allow for proper ventilation.
Another surprise awaited us.
The mound was already cleared with just a few bee butts remaining, crumbs that fell from some wild animal’s mouth as it devoured part of the colony.
I took comfort that an animal was able to survive the cold snap a little longer with this unexpected snack.
Sad to say, that was not the last nor was it the biggest surprise of the season.
Just yesterday, we returned with Daddy Longlegs when the weather improved, and the temperature soared to fifty degrees.
Little Legs stomped about, splashing in ice puddles while his parents hovered around the hive.
“Let’s just take a look in here,” Daddy Longlegs said.
“Do you need the smoker?” I asked.
“Not for these sweet bees,” he explained, confident in their relationship.
He was eager to check on them after the disturbing event of the honey-bee pile up, concerned and worried as any bee-daddy might feel.
Carefully, he removed the bricks keeping the lid in place and then the lid. He pulled up a frame that should have been vibrating with life and instead discovered the absence of movement, a waxy void of noise and movement.
The bees were there, clinging to the comb and to one another in lifeless fuzzy masses on frame after frame.
The colony did not survive.
Our world felt sadder and soggier than before as the snow continued to melt.
Little Legs splashed over and surveyed the situation with a knowing nod, “Honey-bees nap.”
Yes, the honeybees nap. All of them.
For a very, long time.
We stood outside, watching our toddler race down the hill, trip and roll forward through the grass. The boy sat up with a confused look at ending up on the ground. Laughter burst from both of us, unstoppable and refreshing, on an otherwise bleak day.
Suddenly, Daddy Longlegs gasped and put his hand to his mouth.
Instinctively, I looked to Little Legs, happily rolling on his back in the grass, ensuring another complete outfit change. Certain that the boy was safe, I looked in question at his father.
“What is it?” I asked.
“My tooth, something is wrong with it. It’s actually my crown,” he mumbled.
I stood up on tiptoes to peer uninvited into his mouth. Since having my boys, there is nothing about the human body that bothers me, except for blood. The sight of it makes me woozy.
“I think it is loose.”
“Let me see,” I said.
He pulled his lip back like he was caught by a fishhook and wiggled the tooth in question with his tongue.
It was not only loose; it was no longer connected to anything in his mouth. A free-floating bit of resin impersonating Daddy Longlegs’ tooth came off onto his tongue.
“Oh God,” I said feeling queasy.
“It is bad?”
“Well, as you may already know, the crown is no longer connected to your tooth nub and you are going to swallow that very expensive crown if you don’t take it out and store it until you can get to the dentist.”
Daddy Longlegs thought about this information with a closed mouth to keep his little treasure in place.
“Do you know what the dentist who put this in told me to do if it came off?” he asked.
I felt concerned that the dentist gave him a back-up plan for the crown and wondered about the credentials of this so-called dentist.
“He told me to get some superglue and stick it right back in place.”
It was my turn to gasp.
Then, instead of calling the so-called dentist for an emergency appointment, he situated his crown next to the bathroom sink, where it remains.
“It is where people keep their teeth,” he explained.
Or in this case, his tooth. We are in Tennessee, after all.
We were out of maple syrup. A few sweet, sticky droplets clung to the inside of the bottle, but that was it. Those stubborn holdouts wouldn’t fill half the pockets in a waffle and certainly wouldn’t soak a pancake properly.
Instead of following through with our breakfast feast or making a quick run to the store, we had cereal and decided to make our own syrup.
“We have plenty of trees,” Daddy Longlegs reasoned. “Surely, a few of them are maples.”
Thanks to the ever-present assistance of Amazon, our tree tapping kit arrived within 24 hours. Daddy Longlegs wasn’t messing around with this maple syrup business. Of course, this came as no surprise.
When he commits to an idea, he’s all in, which gives me a slight cause for concern because he has also recently toyed with the idea of getting a cow, saying something like, “for as much milk as we go through in a week, it would just make sense.”
Would it, really? I wondered when our new bovine friend would arrive and if Amazon would deliver it to our porch for free, along with the shed, hay, customized bell and whatever else a cow needs to survive in the South.
Putting the cow plan aside, we set out in search of a maple tree with the baby strapped to my chest and Little Legs buzzing circles around us.
“Honeybee,” he said as he buzzed past with his arms bee-hind him, with more of a Tennessee accent than most people in Tennessee. It was hard to tell where he would have picked up such a twang since we go so few places. Is there something in the air or the soil?
Nevertheless, he was becoming more of a Volunteer and less of a Hoosier every day.
“This one looks like a sugar maple,” Daddy Longlegs declared with such confidence, it would be difficult to dispute. Plus, there are a handful of trees that will provide syrup, including the red maple, black walnut, sycamore, ironwood and even the birch. It was no skin off my nose if he picked the wrong tree.
I agreed that we had located the target, a tree. The only other viable, almost-certainly-maple-tree-option was set right in the leach field of our septic system; we can safely assume it would have been shitty tasting syrup.
Daddy Longlegs squatted down next to the tree and drilled a hole, tilted slightly upwards, plugged it with a tap and attached a rubber tube to it. He slid the tube into an old apple juice bottle and waited. And waited.
“Nothing’s happening, babe. Do you think we got the right one?”
Fortunately, I knew from watching Curious George with Little Legs, it could take a while for the sap to flow. We needed freezing nights and above freezing days, some days the flow will be good and other days, not so much, much like life.
For now, we needed to wait and prepare to do some serious boiling because it takes a lot of sap to make syrup. There is a 10 gallon to 4 cup breakdown which makes me appreciate the cost of real maple syrup in the store and question the contents of Pearl Milling’s syrup, the syrup formerly known as Aunt Jemina’s.
Minutes after the neighbor’s white SUV pulled out of the driveway, a grey truck pulled into its place.
It was almost as if the driver had been waiting for her to leave. I shook my head; no that couldn’t be, not in this friendly, little town where they foolishly brag about leaving their doors unlocked.
The truck door swung open and a petite man with a baseball cap hopped out. I ventured that the truck was a mite too big for the man but assumed the distance between us distorted my perception.
He was snooping around the bright, red car parked under a tree. An old Mustang that drew in strange men from the road like moths to a light only to be zapped by the information that the car was not for sale.
Not now, not ever. Or at least until her son decides its too much work to restore which I can only assume will be in the new few years after he goes away to school and gets a job and comes back for Christmas and remembers the car, waiting and rotting down into the ground.
“You sure this ain’t for sale?” the man asked.
Daddy Longlegs shook his head, “Nope, it’s not for sale. They get a lot of folks stopping along this road to ask and its always the same answer.”
The man shielded his eyes from the sun with one hand, “Not even for the right price?”
What an impossible question to answer.
Everyone has a price.
I stepped out of the shower, prepared for anything.
Little Legs had been there for five minutes, which was enough time for so much toddlerfied, crazy-world activity. I tried to minimize the potential trouble by turning on a video about dump trucks and setting him up in a pint-sized rocking chair. What could go wrong, I thought.
As I stepped into the steaming hot water, I said over my shoulder, “Be good.”
He did not respond. His attention was completely focused on the loading of a dump truck at a construction site. I assumed that meant he was agreeable to the terms of our shower arrangement. He would sit in his rocker like a baby zombie, glued to the screen, while I rinsed off and tried to wake up for the day. It was win/win.
Water streamed down my face and over my shoulders, it was refreshing after another night of broken sleep. I decided on another cup of coffee afterwards and peered out the shower door on a whim. I wiped the water from my eyes and squinted at the space where I had just left my son.
It was empty. The baby zombie was gone, zombified no longer. The sing-song voice of a narrator still explained the way that rocks were broken down into smaller bits that got smaller and smaller in a gravel pit and a screen still glowed with what I assume were rocks getting smashed, but no Little Legs.
“Buddy,” I yelled out, rinsing the last of the conditioner from my hair.
I turned off the water and turned up my sixth sense, the mama sense, keenly aware that he was up to something.
“What are you doing?”
I thought the sound of my voice might be enough to guide him to better decision making. I grabbed my towel from the wall and gingerly stepped out onto the rug.
“Ow, ow, ow.”
Little Legs had indeed abandoned his post on the chair. He was standing on a stool in front of the lighted mirror, wearing my watch on his wrist and my glasses on his face, while holding a pair of tweezers.
“What were you doing, guy?”
He stabbed his cheek with the tweezer and let out another cry of pain.
Monkey see, monkey do.
He was going after the little peskies, yet to sprout.
The toddler was on the ground, crying, “I need a nap.”
He situated himself outside of his daddy’s office door in a crying, sobbing 32-pound heap of boy. He knew what he wanted and yet when I scooped him up for quick transport to his crib, he shrieked. His screams became sobs in a sudden change-of-mind.
“Daddy is on the phone,” I whispered into his soft ear while holding him tightly against me. He wrapped his arms around my neck and squeezed my waist with his legs. It was the only type of snuggle he allowed these days.
“No, not that, not that,” he pleaded with his arms still wrapped around my neck.
I shook him off like a flea as I dropped him into his bed and wiped the tears from his cheeks.
“Sweet dreams,” I said and pulled the door to his room shut with the pitiful sound of crying behind me.
I wanted to say, Little Boy, you are so lucky to get to lay down in the middle of the day for an hour. Don’t fight it.
As for me, I wanted to nap with every cell in my body. I longed for peace. I needed to be left alone.
However, now that both boys are sleeping and it is quiet, I miss their noise, their neediness, and the special kind of chaos that they create every single day.
Thanks to the Stones, there is a song that plays in my head, explaining this phenomenon.
Take a break, take a breath and take back your day.
“Oh no, Baby. Oh no.”
Little Legs stared intently at the small screen in his hands; he hit all the buttons and shook the monitor with one hand and then with both hands. It was like watching a monkey trying to shake coins from a piggy bank. With each unsuccessful attempt, he grew more frustrated.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He handed the monitor off to me in tag-team style, his duty done, and returned to Daniel Tiger, his occasional babysitter/constant friend.
“He’s gone!” I said with a gasp, trying to get a rise from my fellow couch-potato.
Staring straight ahead, Little Legs said in agreement, “Baby all gone.”
Apparently, learning about Snow-Flake day was more interesting than the sudden disappearance of his only sibling.
There is a terrible transformation that takes place in Little Legs every time the tv is on; his eyes turn gooey, his jaw drops open and his brain melts into mush. A silvery trail of drool escapes from the corner of his mouth every so often, an indication that he all but forgets to breath when in the presence of a glowing television.
It is no wonder that the AACAP recommends only one hour of non-educational programming per weekday for this age group, here I will paraphrase, to prevent/reduce toddler brain rot.
I readjusted the camera from the floor to the crib.
“He’s not gone, the camera was just out of focus, silly.”
Still, no sign of concern or active life, just a little drool and the wave of his hand.
The Brother Project has a very, very long way to go and in the meantime, I have to figure out what to do about the zombification of screen time.
“Soccer balls are meant to be played with outside,” I explained.
Little Legs cried harder; big, fat tears left snail trails down both cheeks.
“Inside, inside, inside,” he said.
He scooped up the still-shiny-brand-new ball with both hands and gingerly carried it to the back door.
I intercepted, again, and kicked it back to the yard.
“Let’s pass it back and forth to each other.”
His face turned red as a murder-scream escaped from his tiny body. He was furious, his ball was out of his possession and his mommy was not listening, double grounds for the big emotions.
He raced after the ball, grabbed it and ran back to the door. He started pounding the door with an angry fist, hopeful for someone to let him, and his ball, into the safety of the house.
“Alright,” I relented. “We can put the ball back inside.”
I opened the door and he carefully rolled the ball inside, watching its path through the living room and into the kitchen. Satisfied with its resting place, he turned around, ready to continue playing.
“Coons,” he said, reminding me of what happened to the last soccer ball.
“I know, the racoons got your ball and shredded it up last time. You were really upset when we found it, weren’t you?”
He nodded and pointed to the woods.
“Coons. Ball, coons.”
“We will be more careful this time and bring it in at night. The racoons can’t get to it that way.”
He shook his head in a flat rejection.
He was not taking any chances, and I was not about to change his mind.
We snuggled on the couch, exhausted from another week with two naughty little boys who delight in taking each other’s toys, bopping one another on the head, making messes, and jointly terrorizing the cat.
While the boys are awake, we must remain on high alert to intervene in dangerous situations like the toddler base jumping from the back of the couch or the baby latching onto an electrical cord and pulling it from the wall.
When both bedroom doors are closed and silence falls over the house, it is only then that we can take a deep breath, relax and sink into the couch. Two bags of rocks would not fall to the bottom of a lake faster than we ease into our weekend at that point.
“It’s time,” I said.
“Time for what?” Daddy Longlegs said, the whites of his blue eyes wide and alarmed, not expecting anything other than Netflix and a bottle of wine.
“To set our New Year’s resolutions, silly.”
He let out a visible sigh of relief and settled deeper into the comfort of the evening.
“Ok, I want to start jogging,” he declared.
“And for us to take a vacation, a real vacation with the boys. And to start eating better. And…” he trailed off.
“What about you?” he asked.
I drew an absolute blank. My mind was free and clear of any meaningful thought.
“I guess, I guess I want to…clean all the blinds and windows.”
“No,” he said. “Something for you, not us.”
And still, there was nothing, which gave me plenty to consider for a week.
I thought about my lack of goals with a fresh awareness that I need to be a person, outside of being a mom and a wife. I am starting with a few easy ones like learn chess and make more friends, more goals will follow once I build up steam with these.
So it is for me, myself and I that I have to do at least one more thing in the next days, weeks and months.
I am reading The Mother by Pearl S. Buck, who is also the author of The Good Earth. I picked it up from the discount shelf at a bookstore back when I still left the house on a regular basis and had the time to read back covers without a sticky little hand tugging on my pants for a snack. The book has been in a pile with other leftover books from a more prosperous era of book buying, patiently waiting its turn in queue.
The pages are yellow and brittle and the front cover has a neon green $1 sticker on it, although I think I only paid a quarter for it. Imagine if the author knew how her time spent away from family and friends, writing and rewriting the book was reduced to a mere, measly 25 cents. I wonder if she still would have written it or said, “the hell with it” and thrown the manuscript into a musty chest never to see the light of day, again.
When I turn down the corner of a page to mark it, it breaks off in my hand. A crunchy little triangle that will never be returned to the book of its origin and proof of my sin against books. Review any of the books on my bookshelves for more proof of this bad habit, with an exception given to none.
There is a line that repeats itself in my head from the book; it is striking not only as a mother, but especially as a mother in the middle of a pandemic with two little boys.
“Is there one day different from another under Heaven for a mother?”
For me, the answer is no. Each morning, it is a routine of wake, feed, play, repeat. Of course, the routine is tailored to the various needs of my offspring, but the repetition is there with the unfortunate addition of cleaning and cooking. And I find myself content in it, mostly. I am happy to have the opportunity to raise my boys how I want and grateful for our time together because I know it won’t be like this for long, cue Darius Rucker’s singing and tears.