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  • Writer's pictureGlenn Morgan

Throwing Bees

On the other side of wide windows, birds join in serenade, trees sway, and morning sunlight tumbles. Inside, I sit quietly staring at my sleeping daughter.


Propped on the corner of Gee’s bed, I shift a fresh cup of coffee from my right hand to left. Not quite ready to enter the day, Gee is curled under the embrace of multiple SpongeBob blankets. Leaning over, I brush wayward brown hair from my daughter’s eyes. The bed creeks under my shifting weight. She stirs. Seeking to ease Gee into the day, I repeat the unheard whisper of a moment ago, “Hey, good morning sleepy Gee.” She rustles as I continue, “It’s time to wake up and head downstairs for some breakfast. I cooked up some oatmeal and there’s a giant smiley face made of fruit slices for you.”


From the edge of a smirking SpongeBob, Gee blinks.


From the far corner of the bed SpongeBob’s friend, Patrick, watches the unfolding scene.


Summer sunlight lances through blinds to paint stripes across father and daughter. In the space between bed and window, specks of dust dance within meaty slices of light. Outside, bending branches join my morning call, tapping tenderly against the house.


From the stereo a floor below, familiar scratches across vinyl accompany “Riders on the Storm” on a waltz into Gee’s room. Music drifts lazily to rub softly at our ears. Dancing dust specks seem to sway in time to Morrison’s swan song.


This morning it’s just me and Gee. Sandy’s left early with DJ to pick up DJ’s friend, Enrique, for a playdate. From Enrique’s house, Sandy, the boys, and Enrique’s mom will head to the Science Museum to explore the updated dinosaur exhibit. The two boys are in a frenzy over the new T. rex display. DJ left the house clutching his favorite plastic dinosaur, intent on introducing the little creature to the museum’s updated T. rex. In response to my, “DJ I love you” reminder, my son held his dinosaur high and roared.


Without words, I give Gee’s shoulder a gentle nudge. In response, she burrows deeper into the cocoon of blankets, “Daddy,” she whispers, “I’m sleepy. Before we go downstairs, can you tell me a story?” Poking her head into a beam of intruding sunlight, she shields big brown eyes, “Please?”


Suppressing a smile, I recall my mother’s approach to persuasion. Gee has inherited Mom’s ability to guide a conversation toward a desired destination with grace. I bend toward Gee, “Do you really want a story or are you tricking me into letting you stay in bed for a little longer because you know if I start in on one of my stories, I’m gonna blab and blab and blab and you’ll get to stay in bed for who knows how long?”


Gee struggles to look serious before covering her face with a pillow. “Both,” she squeals.


“OK, fine. Since you’re so smart and you’re able to trick me into letting you stay in bed without asking me to do so, you get your story. But, afterward, we go downstairs for breakfast. Deal?”


From under many covers, a slender brown arm pokes out to deliver a thumbs up.


“Now, let me think of one... Hmmm, how about a story about when I was a kid?”


Gee unearths herself from the pillow. Pulling SpongeBob, and Patrick the starfish, and Gary the Snail up under her chin she nods, urging me to toward the blurry border between past and present.


“Well then I’ll share an edited version of a day I was home with my Mom.


It starts with a dream…


I’m a little kid – a little older than you – and it’s morning. And I’m sleeping and dreaming that something’s flitting about my head. Every now and then this thing, whatever it is, touches my face, kinda like a mosquito looking for a place to land. I keep trying to swat it away. The feeling stops for a second, but it keeps coming back. Just a touch, like this...”


Gee wriggles as I softly touch the end of my index finger to the tip of her nose.


“Slowly, this thing keeps floating back; kinda like a feather wanting to rest on my cheek or a secret memory trying to return back home inside my head.


And trying to get away from this invisible mosquito thing, I roll over. But when I do, light jumping through my bedroom catches me square in the face. Boom! Everything’s bright white! Covering my eyes, I squint. Blinking slowly, the world’s all a blur.


Then, the second before everything comes into focus, I smell Ivory soap. And Breck shampoo.


Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I find it’s not a mosquito or a feather or a memory floating about. It’s Mom! She’s sitting on my bed, stroking my face with the tips of her fingers; just sitting and staring at me. Brown hair sways slowly to frame her face. The summer’s emboldened a tiny tribe of freckles and they’ve settled across the bridge of her button nose. Her hazel eyes roam over me; they’re tender, almost melancholy, and full of hope. And with her light red lipstick, her smile is right out of 1950s Hollywood.


Seeing me wake, she beams.


Her hand retreats. As it does, morning sunlight bounces off shiny red nails. The reflections sparkle like little shooting stars. In formation, they fly away from my face. It’s beautiful.


She’s beautiful.


This morning, my sisters are at 8AM swim lessons at the town pool and Dad’s taken my brother, KJ, to one of his traveling all-star baseball games. KJ’s a great baseball player. Heck, he’s a great football player too! Well anyway, Mom wakes me by simply sitting on my bed with a cup of tea and stroking my face.”


Gee weighs in, “Hey! That’s just like how you wake me, but you do it with coffee!”


Like my mother, Gee beams.


I shrug shoulders before nodding in the affirmative, “Shall I continue?”


Gee raises eyebrows and mimics my nod.


“The air is dry in my bedroom because of the air conditioner. I clear my scratchy throat before croaking out the day’s first words, ‘Hey Mom, what time is it?’


Mom shrugs and smiles and without words offers me her tea. Propping myself up on an elbow, I grab the cup and quickly slurp down half her warm Lipton tea. Seeing me ready to plop backward, Mom grabs the cup before I spill it all over the bed.


When I fall back onto my Speed Racer pillow, she slips me a scolding glance. Mom manages the sway of the tea. Her sharp glance doesn’t last long though, “Careful, Glenn. You don’t wanna spill.”


I’m extra tired because Mom let me stay up late last night to watch the Yankees on TV. They beat the Sox in extra innings and now I’m too tired to get outa bed.


I roll over on my stomach and jam my head under the pillow.


Without a word, mom starts scratching my back. Sharp fingertips gently stroll across my freckled shoulders. As always, her nails are sharp. Not so long ago, I asked why she cut them that way; into sharp-as-needle points.


‘So I can scratch my son’s back better, that’s why.’


The hum of the bedroom air conditioner and the sound of her tiny sips accompany the faintest of scratchy back scratching noises.


Mom finishes her back scratch with a flourish. She writes a note across the top of my back with her index finger and then pulls the pillow off my head. Quickly, she leans forward to kiss my cheek, whispering, “I left you a message on your back. You can see the secret I scratched for you in the mirror when you get up.”


I howl, “Mom, what is it? Tell me!”


Looking from me to lancing light, Mom closes eyes as if in prayer before returning attention to me, “It’s a secret message. But I’ll give you a hint; it’s a secret you already know.”


Before I’m able to protest, she stands gracefully, sips some tea, and walks away. Hushed footsteps carry her down stairs.


Within a few minutes, I trace Mom’s footsteps down the stairs, take a detour toward the bathroom, and pee. As I wash hands, I contort myself in front of the bathroom mirror trying to read the message Mom scribbled on my back. Turning to and fro, I look from a variety of angles without success. Arching my chin over my right shoulder, I spy lots of loops and soft scratch swirls but the message remains a mystery.


I make my way downstairs to the first floor to find mom standing in front of the kitchen sink, filling the teapot and looking out the window, “Mom, tell me! What’d you write on my back?”


She doesn’t turn from the window, “It’s something you already know, Glenn. In fact, I don’t even have to tell you because I recently told you in my own special way.” 


“What is it? Study? Don’t fight? Don’t throw rocks? Come on, Mom, what’d you write?”


She turns her head slightly before returning to face the window, “I told you; you already know. Now have a seat. I’m making your favorite breakfast.”


I can tell she’s happy.


Taking my seat in the corner of the kitchen, I start digging into a bowl of Quisp cereal. The kitchen is the perfect size for just Mom and me. As the clock above marks the march of moments, the small room fills with greasy smoke and the scent of bacon. Turning attention from ticking time, my gaze comes to rest on Mom’s back.


As if sensing my focus, Mom turns to face me, “It’s you and me this morning, kiddo. The place seems so big without Dad, KJ and the girls, doesn’t it?”


I nod.


Her white Emerson radio plays AM music. Mom hums along with her favorites, every now and then turning towards me with a flourish or a two-step dance move as she fixes breakfast to the beat of the top 40 tunes.


She’s cooking Pirate eye eggs, made by tearing a whole in a slice of Wonder Bread, placing the bread in a butter-soaked pan, breaking one egg into the hole, and frying ‘till the room fills with smoke. Flipped over once or twice, the resulting combination resembles a patched eye. Mom continues to cook, keeping pace as I plow through four such eggs, a handful of bacon, my favorite cereal covered in a snowstorm of sugar, and Minute Maid Orange Juice.


Looking for an opportunity, I monitor Mom’s movements. I’m waiting for her to look away from me. When she’s at the stove, she keeps turning around to smile at me, but when she’s at the sink she stares out the window. And when she does, I shove my spoon into the sugar bowl, scoop a mound of sugar, and jam it into my mouth. White sugar granules crunch between cavity pocked teeth before turning into a gooey syrup. Swallowing successive rounds of goo, my blood feels like it’s vibrating, “Mom, I’m finished! And that was a great breakfast. So, thank you. Now can I please be excused to go watch cartoons on TV?”


Still facing the sink, Mom’s head tilts before turning slightly toward me. I spy a small smile as it reaches upward. Ignoring my question, she asks one of her own, “Do you want a cup of tea, Glenn?”


Knowing I’ll have to work for TV time, I nod. And though she does not turn to see my response, she fills the kettle at the sink. Placing the teapot on the stove, she sets loose a blue flame. Turning, she smooths her apron and joins me at the table. Effortlessly, she floats into her chair.


“It’s too nice to be inside watching the boob tube, Glenn. Today’s a perfect summer day. You should be outside enjoying it.”


“But Mom, Kimba the White Lion‘s on and you know how much I love Kimba!”


She rests her elbows on the Formica tabletop and laces fingers together, creating a resting spot for her pointed chin. She supports herself on a bouncing archway of fingers. Fully brushed, her hair now forms two long inward bending curls framing a porcelain face and that little freckly nose. Her lipstick pops, drawing your attention to her mouth when she speaks. Long black lashes move up and down like handheld fans made of leaves from Kimba the White Lion’s home in the jungle.


All my friends say Mom’s the prettiest mom.


I don’t tell them so, but I know they’re right.


“Glenn, do you know how much you love Kimba?”


Again, I nod.


“Well, think of a thousand times that amount and, then you’ll know how much I love you.” She breaks her latticework of fingers to reach across the table to cup my cheek. Sunlight leaps from her modest though well-polished engagement ring. Her fingers are long. In the morning light, I notice her fingertips match the color of her lips. As if caught on a breeze, those long fingers drift upward to my mop of curly hair. Quickly they become tangled. Mom shakes her head, “My God, Glenn, when was the last time you combed your hair?” 


I shrug, “I dunno. Before school one day, I guess.”


She bursts out laughing, “Before school? School ended weeks ago, Glenn! My God. My messy little boy, what am I going to do with you, huh? Go get me a…” 


She stops herself, “No, you just stay here with me and be my messy little boy. School?” she repeats. “Good Lord.” She’s enjoying herself. “My goodness, Glenn, do you think there are any squirrels in that nest of yours? Maybe a bird? Huh, what’s up there in that mop on the top of your head? Come on, let me take a look.”


She leans forward and starts probing my hair, dramatically searching for animals. Quickly, she moves her hands down under my chin and starts tickling me. I squeal.


She beams.


For a moment, the world slows as she simply sits and stares at me.


And in that tiny moment I know what love 1,000 times Kimba love is.


The moment uncoils into the past when we hear footsteps scampering up the stairs leading to the back porch.


Heavy pounding steps on those stairs usually carry an adult complaining about the behavior of me or KJ, resulting in silent nods from Mom or Dad, apologies to the adult, and a thrashing of the child responsible for the complaint.


Today’s steps are quick. Quick steps on the porch announce the arrival of friends. A series of light raps on the back door soon follow. Before addressing our visitor, Mom stands, steps next to me, and pulls me into a hug, squeezing my head against her hip. As I look up from my chair, she looks down toward her son. “I love you,” she whispers. Then, without waiting for a response, she faces the back door, “Come in.”


Stan enters as I not so subtly push away from Mom’s embrace. Mom makes a show of my separation, creating attention I was hoping to avoid. “Stan, will you please tell Glenn it’s OK for his mom to hug him? Will you? I mean, it’s not so bad is it?”


Stan shrugs.


As if affronted, Mom places hands on hips, “Humph! Well, anyway, Stan, did you eat yet? Do you want some breakfast, honey?’


“No thank you, Mrs. Morgan. I had breakfast.” The nostrils on Stan’s pointed nose rise. They flare. And thinking better of his response, Stan scans the room, “Gosh, it smells good in here. I’ll have some bacon if that’s OK.”


Mom raises eyebrows as she looks from Stan to me and back to Stan.


A confused Stan looks to me for guidance. Slowly, I mouth the word, ‘please.’


Nodding, Stan turns to Mom, “I mean, may I please have some bacon, Mrs. Morgan?”


Mom hands Stan a plate full of grease-soaked bacon. My friend grabs a chair next to me. He makes short work of the bacon. Stan is to bacon as I am to sugar. Finished with his carnivore’s delight, Stan ignores the napkin Mom offers him and wipes his mouth on his shirt, “That was great, Mrs. Morgan. Thank you. Now, can Glenn come out and play today?”


Mom turns to me, “Well Glenn, can you?”


“Yeah. I mean, if we can’t watch TV, that’d be great. But is it OK if I skip the tea and be excused to go outside?”


Mom turns off the kettle. “Of course, honey. Just be back by lunch. And if you’re gonna leave the neighborhood stop by and tell me where you’re going, OK?”


I get up to bolt from the table but Mom’s too quick. She grabs my arm and pulls me into a hug. I hug her back as quickly as possible.


Just before I run out the door, Mom states flatly, “Have fun, you two. Oh and Glenn, when I’m at the sink and looking out the window I can see your reflection in the glass and I can tell when you sneak spoonfuls of sugar. You know that right?”


“Mom, I, I … I didn’t eat any extra sugar. Really!”


“Glenn, I watch you do it in my window. So no more lying and no more mouthfuls of sugar, got it? You’ll get worms and they’ll grow to two feet long and live inside you forever, eating all the sugar and candy and bacon you swallow.”


“Gross! OK, I’ll stop feeding the worms.” I turn to my friend, “Come on Stan, let’s go.”


As I rush out the backdoor, I call over my shoulder, “Thanks for breakfast Mom!”


Liberated from a morning of motherly love, Stan and I grab our Schwinn bikes and prowl the neighborhood, looking for materials to use on the wooden fort blighting our backyard.


We take turns popping wheelies on our way to a construction site a few blocks away. Each of us overdo the wheelies and fall backward off our bikes. Though Stan whacks his head on the pavement and I scrape my elbow, neither of us cry. We’re quickly back on our bikes.


Slowing as we approach the construction zone, we nonchalantly cycle back and forth in front of the target location. We make ever decreasing rounds until we find ourselves stopped in front of a newly framed house. Our stealthy efforts give us confidence there are no construction workers inside the house on a Saturday morning.


Riding up the curb, we dart behind the house and jump off our bikes, tossing them in the dirt. We climb a pile of lumber and then crawl over machinery to peek through windows. Walking around the house, we find an opening and enter what is soon to become the garage. We find neatly stacked piles of lumber, cinder blocks and digging tools. I pull back a big blue tarp and a roll of window screening falls to the ground. “Yes!”


Scooping up the roll of screening, we bolt. Stan rides ahead of me on the lookout for cars and nosey neighbors as we return home with our bounty. 


We go straight to the fort, tucked in the far corner of my backyard. The fort is a never ending work in progress, always changing and always expanding. Not long ago, our neighbor, Mr. Tremblay, asked Mom and Dad to dismantle the fort because of its hideous appearance. Proud of my engineering prowess, Dad politely declined but agreed to add large sheets of plastic to the side of the fort facing the Tremblay’s yard to blunt the ugliness of the patchwork structure. Upon hearing of this request, I was so mad my blood boiled. One night, not long after the Tremblay’s request, after Mom and Dad went to bed, I happened to sneak out the basement window to look for rocks for my rock collection. It’s always good to have some nice rocks in your pockets. By coincidence, the same evening I was out looking for rocks, someone – or something – smashed the Tremblay’s car windshield. Coulda been a cat; I don’t know. They never figured out what happened and no one ever found out I was outside that night. Even though I was considered a prime suspect, the cause remained a mystery. Dad didn’t think much of my cat or mystery ideas so he smacked me a good one to cover all bases.


Well anyway, we love the fort. It’s cobbled together with lumber found around the neighborhood and from extra 2’ x 4’s from Dad’s back porch expansion project. The structure spans three floors; a rooftop, a first floor and a second floor. The second floor is the most important part of the fort. The second floor consists of often soggy carpeting found in a neighbor’s garage and various supplies. This all important hideout is accessed via a hatch in the ceiling of the first floor. From the second floor, you can climb through a hatch leading to the roof. And from the roof, you can climb a rope tied to the base of a tree fort 30 feet above. From the tree fort, you can throw rocks at opponents when playing war. Another reason to always have a good rock or two in your pocket.


Our patchwork fort is in need of a window as we are presently forced to look through cracks in the walls to gain a sense of what’s happening outside our sanctuary. Banging out a couple of planks from the walls, Stan and I nail sheets of our newly acquired screening in place.


We take our time to nail multiple layers of screening. We create a thick mesh, letting light in, but keeping curious eyes out. The fort is our refuge and we do not want prying eyes of parents peeking in to see us reading Playboy magazines, getting ideas for mayhem from Mad Magazine, or choking through cigarettes found in Stan’s mom’s pocketbook.


With our screen window project complete, we sit in the fort drinking from a case of Coke bottles recently found on the A&P loading dock. Through our new screen windows, Stan and I take turns looking for neighbors to spy on. On this Saturday morning, the neighborhood is quiet and pickings are slim. Our only sighting is Mr. Tremblay who walks out his back door, places hands on wide hips, looks in our direction, shakes his head, and walks away.


Following Mr. Tremblay’s saunter up the driveway, Stan presses his face against the screen. He loses sight of my neighbor but grows excited, “Whoa, look at all the bumble bees by your kitchen window. I can see ‘em from here. There’s tons of ‘em. They’re everywhere!”


I nod at the implications of the comment as Stan turns to face me, “That’s a lot of ammo, Glenn. I mean, a real lot.”


“Are you challenging me, the world champion bee thrower?” I ask in mock seriousness. Stan scoffs as I lean forward, “Are you asking me to throw bees?”


“Let’s do it,” yells Stan. “Me vs. you, Morgan. I’m gonna kick your butt so let’s go!”


We climb down from the second floor of the fort and cautiously approach the largest of the rhododendron bushes under Mom’s kitchen window. The bushes run along the entire side of our red house. The biggest bush blooms just below Mom’s window. The bees roam the airspace around purple flowers, landing, doing their thing, and leaping to rejoin the airborne crowd. Tiny specks of sunlight flick on and off as light periodically catches the edges of bees’ wings. Busy at their tasks, they pay two bipeds no mind. Steeled for battle, the bipeds creep forward, entering the buzzing bubble.


About eight feet above the rhododendron bush, Mom’s head periodically bounces across the kitchen window. It’s as if she’s a star on TV, walking in and out of the TV screen. Drawn to Mom’s ad hoc show, Stan and I pause to look up toward the window.


The window is cranked open, allowing Stan and I to hear cabinets clanking, water rushing at the sink, and a teapot whistling. Mom’s radio is turned up loud and every now and then we hear her singing or humming along with the radio’s song. Though a far better cook than singer, she allows herself to bounce around the room following the pace of the music. From my perch outside, I smell a cake baking in the oven.  


The open window allows pieces of uninterrupted Mom to spill out into the yard.


Stan pushes my shoulder, “Ready to throw bees, Morgan?”


When I do not respond, Stan follows my gaze up to the kitchen window, “Your mom’s funny, huh? And man, whatever she’s cooking smells great. Hey, think I can eat dinner over your house tonight? I’m guessing that’s a cake she’s cooking.” 


Unaware of her audience below, Mom’s head bops about. 


I watch her in silence, wondering if she might sense I am staring.


Stan punches my arm, though it’s really more a tap to gain my attention.


And jerked back to reality I look around, “Huh? Yeah, you can eat over tonight. Mom likes you. She won’t mind. That is if you’re not crying like a baby from getting stung by bees.” 


Readying myself for the bee fight, I extend my skinny arms to measure the distance from the rhododendron. Stan follows suit. “You’re too close,” I protest. “You have to start at arm’s length from the bushes.”


Grunting, Stan stretches his arm to confirm he is starting the required distance from the ammo zone. “You’re just chicken, Morgan,” he chides me. Dramatically, he reaches for the bushes to confirm distance, “Happy? Now, are you ready to start or are you gonna be a chicken?”


With gravity, I indicate I am ready. 


Together we count, “One. Two. Three. Bee!”


On queue and without sound, we both step toward the bush, eyeing potential projectiles. Quickly, Stan tries to grab for a bee. He jerks his hand away as the bee agitates. When catching bees, Stan prefers quick stabs, seeking to grab the nearest bee. He’s a quantity guy. In contrast, I work slowly to find a perfect bee; one resting or walking. “Bingo,” I whisper. Finding a bee crawling along the edge of a purple flower, my hand moves gingerly toward the target.


I peek at Stan. Engrossed in his search for a suitable bee, his right hand darts back and forth. Looking back to the flower, I’m pleased to see the bee continues to creep along a purple pedal. With practiced precision, I approach with hand open wide. Less than an inch away from the crawling bee, I strike. Wrapping my hand around prey, I pull my arm back and shake an almost-closed fist in an effort to disorient the trapped bee. In the palm of my hand, I feel the bee’s wings go wild. Then, I hurl my bee bullet in Stan’s direction. The bee soars through my opponent’s flailing arms to strike Stan in the neck. The face is the best place to hit someone, but the neck’s still pretty good. Howling, Stan tumbles to the ground. In an effort to distance himself from a clearly furious bee, Stan rolls to the left, crushing some of Mom’s yellow marigolds. That’s gonna be trouble.


Stan scrambles to his feet as I search for another projectile from among the flowers.


The trick to throwing bees is to enclose the bee in a cage made of your hand and to hold your hand kinda closed but not all the way closed and as loose as possible to avoid crushing the bee. If the bee feels like you’re going to crush it, you are in for a painful sting. The bee wants to get away, not fight. That’s a lesson learned through many failed bee throws.


Finding a second bee walking along a flower pedal, I grab it, shake it, and heave it toward Stan. It strikes him square in the chest. This time, Stan plays it cool as he steps backward away from the zigs and zags of a stunned bee.


With Stan and I jostling the bushes and tossing bees back and forth, overall bee activity kicks up. Their flights become short and straight. They seem to be getting more agitated. Their bubble of anger expands as they become annoyed with the two intruders.


Stan catches me watching the buzzing bees. He lurches to the bush, grabs at a flower and pulls his arm back, ready to bean me with a bee. I dive to the ground as he throws a handful of air toward me.


“Ha!” he howls. “Got ya!”


It’s the oldest trick in the book and I fall for it. With me climbing up from the ground Stan takes his time, finds a bee and heaves it in my direction, hitting me directly in the face. I fall backward, thudding onto my rearend as Stan’s hands rise skyward in triumph. No sting but a direct hit. As I rub my tender cheek, Stan hunts for another bee to finish me off. Collecting myself, I jump up and join the hunt for a killer bee.


He hit me in the face. Now I really wanna make him cry.


Silently, our arms move back and forth as we race against each other and the swelling anger of the bees, searching for a knockout weapon without success.


Finding a perfect bee, I turn to acquire my target. But, Stan has stopped his search and is staring up at the kitchen window. Seeing what Stan sees, I let go of the bee and it scoots back toward the bushes. I hadn’t notices but the music is now a lot louder. Mom is belting out the words to Horse with No Name. Stan and I stand shoulder to shoulder, watching her, perfectly framed in the window. She spins and twirls, tilting her face up toward the sky as she works at the sink and sings.


Stan turns from Mom to me and back to Mom. Without saying so, we agree the bee battle is a draw. Watching Mom, Stan and I struggle to contain our laughter. Stan bends over and snorts out a laugh. In turn, I try as best I can to mute an embarrassed howl. I yell up toward the window, “Hey Mom, we can hear you, ya know! We can hear ya singing.” 


My words go unnoticed. Eyes closed, Mom continues her sing along, “In the desert you can remember your name, ‘cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain…”


Stan starts clapping to the music and I start stamping my foot as we both jump into the chorus, “La la, la, lalalala.  La la, la la…”  We belt out our collaboration as Mom continues to bounce and sing eight feet overhead.


The bees swarm in confusion. We ignore them as we start dancing above crushed marigolds. The bees oblige our turn towards benevolence by ignoring us. Perhaps they like our song.


After working our one-sided duet through a number of choruses Mom finally glances outside and sees us singing along and dancing to her song. She freezes and then darts from the window as we burst out laughing. Jumping up and down, we applaud her.


She returns to the window blushing, “OK, smart alecs, how long have you been watching me?”


I jump into the chorus, “La la, la lalalala…” Stan joins in. We slowly turn in little circles, shaking our butts, and dancing as the song continues to pour from the kitchen into the yard. 


Mom covers her mouth with both hands, enjoying the moment.


Like the rhododendrons, a slice of heaven blooms bright.


Leaning out the window, Mom notices Stan and I are not alone in the yard. “My God boys, there are bees everywhere! What the heck are you doing out there?”


Cupping both hands to the side of my mouth, I bark up toward the window, “You mean besides singing along with you, Mom? We’re just throwing bees. You know; kids’ stuff.”


“For the love of Pete! You won’t let me hug you but you’ll let Stan throw bumble bees at you? You two off your rockers! Get in here before you get yourselves stung. Come on, I just finished making chocolate icing for a cake. You two goofballs can lick the bowl.”


Leaving the bees to their flowers, Stan and I take flight toward the kitchen door. I run ahead of my friend, seeking to make it up the stairs and into the kitchen first. Swinging open the door, I find mom standing at the sink. Sunlight slips through her kitchen window. Her face carves into a sunbeam, curving the light around her and filling the kitchen with her reflective glow. Before Stan makes his way into the room, I grab Mom and hug her. Just in a nick of time, I whisper, “I love you, Mom,” pushing away as Stan skids into the kitchen.


As I finish telling Gee the story, her eyebrows pinch together, “Wait a minute. When you were kids, you threw bees at each other? That’s something a caveman would do. And, did you really do all that stuff? I mean, that was crazy town where you lived!


I shrug, “Hey we didn’t have the internet so we had to make do.”


Mouth agape, Gee’s head rocks back and forth as she delivers her verdict, “That’s crazy, Daddy. I mean, really, really crazy.” Her words accelerate, “And besides, didn’t you get stung? Didn’t those bees get angry and sting you? And, hey wait a minute, how old did you say you were?”


Again, I shrug, “Oh I’m guess’n I was a little older than you, Gee. And, yes, sometimes we got stung, but not that often. The trick was to be gentle and not to squeeze the bees. Even when you’re little, if you squeeze a bee too hard it gets scared and stings you. So, it’s best to be gentle. Actually, I guess it’s best to be gentle in most things we do, right? But anyway, it’s also probably best you don’t try to throw bees or do the stuff we did.”


Gee assures me, “Me and my friends won’t be throwing bees, Daddy. Believe me, that is not normal and we are not cavemen. So, we will not be throwing bees at each other.”


My daughter takes a measure of me before extending her effort to rest in bed without asking, “Dad, before we have breakfast, can you please scratch my back?” And not waiting for an answer she falls backward and rolls over. 


I put my coffee on the table next to her bed and slowly scratch her shoulders. I lean forward and, as I hear the air conditioner kick in, I use my index finger to spell out a little sentence across two delicate shoulder blades.


I Love You!


And 30 years after delivery, Mom’s secret message is revealed.


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