Monday, March 23, 2009


My second-born son is a bee afficionado---he knows and will tell you WAY more than you thought you wanted to know. He knows times and temperatures and honey flavors and bee routes and all those magical, wonderful mysteries of the world's first sweetener. I know very little, as I have him right there---my personal Apian Encyclopedia, and mostly the curiosity on that subject doesn't flare up too often.

When I was a very young child, all my friends played "doll" or "school" or various run-and-shout games...I organized counters and dishes and pretend cookstoves and skillets, channeling Miss Marthy right and left, sending this one out to gather grass, that one to pick up acorns from which we separated the tops into little bowls and cups, and another for the best, cleanest mud and sand for ingredients. We would mix and stir and bake, then decorate cakes and pies and cookies beyond the imaginations of Duff and the Charm City squad.

My Mammaw sent everybody home the day she caught us sitting with little bowls in our laps, painstakingly shelling the almost-microscopic little "peas" from the slender hanging pods of her precious cleome bed. We sucked honey-suckle blossoms for the nectar, raided plum thickets and blackberry rambles, held buttercups under our chins, and could not be warned away from the hive-filled wall which adjoined the dining room in her tiny house. Bees had moved into that old clapboard wall years before, and you could see the ins and outs of all the workers, entering and leaving by way of several holes in the siding. The room also held my bed for when I visited, and the hum of the hive was as lulling as a waterfall. All that never-ending activity, carried on for ages out of time, just a bead-board away as I nestled down---there was a gentle soothe to it that no music and no magic machines can convey.

I always wanted the adults to "raid" the honeycomb, but we never did, and when I was a teenager, they tore down the house in order to build my grandparents a new one on the site. I was on a trip with my class, and missed the whole thing!!

I could, however, "charm" a bee into letting me take her back outside, away from the siren-call of the lightbulb at the end of its long ceiling-string. My Grandpa would cup his hand upside down near the frantically-buzzing bee pressing her backside to the lethally-hot bulb, slowly slide it up and between her and the light, close his fist softly, and release her out into the night air.

I was determined to learn to do that, so I practiced every time I went to visit, if there were a bee in the room, sometimes precariously standing on a chair to reach the light. He said, "You just have to think hard how much you love that bee." It worked, and I released several of my own over the years. He could also do that with a wasp, but no way on this earth could I ever love a wasp THAT much.


Tonja said...

No, I think wasps have evil streak in them! Once, when my boys were small, a wasp got into the space between the glass and the window screen. Slowly, more followed and before you knew it, they had begun building a nest. It was a fascinating process to watch and completely safe to spy on them. Then they closed it up, and soon we began to see little movements inside the spaces. And then they began coming out. Those boys would watch them for hours. We had to destroy them before they all hatched out. But, it was fun while it lasted.

Southern Lady said...

Lovely, lovely post, Rachel. You have a truly awesome way with words, my friend, and are a master storyteller. Have you considered writing a book?

racheld said...

I've written probably enough for a dozen, all snugged away in closets and boxes and under beds---pages uncountable and unarrayed, just reams of thoughts and midnight ramblings and letters to friends with little anecdotes and family stories.

Christmas 2007, Chris gave me the binding and printing of 25 copies of a family book, chapters on his family and mine, with random thoughts and memories of the South, the cooking and the weather and the friends long unseen. The butterfly picture at the top was the cover picture, and the title was "GATHERINGS," though later when I started this blog, the title was already taken.

I do love to visit Tonya at the other Gatherings, and she peeks in here from time to time.

I wouldn't have a clue how to go about doing a real book, for real people to read---I look at the shelves in bookstores and in libraries and wonder How Did They Do That, just put themselves RIGHT OUT THERE for the declining or the acceptance.

I'd love to have something to hold in my hands, the pages combined into a solid, compact whole which speaks of me and mine, but I wouldn't know where to start. And the audience would be very small, I fear, for my times are a generation removed, and mostly of another time.

Gfron1 said...

I really liked this too, but I won't be trying to catch a bee any time soon. Has your son become a honey snob? There's nothing like Coffee Blossom honey. This post also reminded me how I used to suck the honey suckle blossoms. I wonder if you could pull the flavor out to make a dessert...

racheld said...

AHHHH, the Kumquat Man!!!

I'm delighted to see you here---I've been loving all the PB cooking you're doing, and all your menus and posts.

No, not a snob, and he's cued us in on several tasty varieties---local and some that we've found in our many-state ramblings. I went wild in Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati a coupla years ago, and we're still making our way through the jewelly jars of Orange Blossom and Lavender and Sage.

There's a HUGE honeysuckle TREE out back, and I have a few tastes every year, just for old times. Distilling from the blossoms seems possible, I guess---I've never done anything but rose petals, and that was a mistake.

Coffee blossom, now---that sounds Heavenly.