For always…

“I’ll love you forever

I’ll like you for always

As long as I’m living

My baby you’ll be.”

-“Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch

It began, like most conversations with him do, in the front seat of a car late at night.  He is a young man who doles out words to his mother on an “as needed’ basis. It usually takes an enclosed space with no chance of escape or three hours of driving to get him talking. As the mile markers clicked past between St. Paul and home, he told me that he’d like to take a trip back to Korea which got me talking about what I know and what I don’t about his first year of life there.

Luckily, when you are in the process of adopting you learn to keep every scrap of paper the agency sends you.  The documents, forms, and photographs become what you hold onto until the time when you finally hold your child. And then, once that happens,and you’ve fallen completely in love with that child, you live in fear that someone is going to show up and ask for proof that you were actually worthy of such a blessing. You just do. Because you are kind of neurotic that way. And because adopting a child is a whole lot more complicated than loving one is.

And so, the next day I pulled all the documents I’d kept concerning his adoption out of closets and cupboards.  I found his passport from Korea with the picture of a tiny, bald, red-faced baby boy in a blue sleeper and looked through the medical reports and his social worker’s notes.  Then, since I was already more than a few miles down memory lane, I looked through his baby book with my meticulous notes about his first steps….first words….first friends. Milestones in the life of a small boy.

I came to the page with the heading “The Things You Said” and was immediately reminded of how he would say “my arm is too far” if he couldn’t reach something and how he’d wrap his arms around my neck and say “I love you TOO MUCH!”  How he’d once looked at me and asked, quite seriously, “Mama, when I’m a big man, what will YOU be?” after I’d read the book Love You Forever to him for about the fifteenth time in one week.

What will I be? You asked me that question twenty two years ago. And yet, most of the time it seems we have arrived here in your adulthood in the flutter of a butterfly’s wings. Here’s my answer…

I am the mom who rocked you back and forth. The one who still needs to teach you how to iron a dress shirt for a job interview. I’m both more gray and more grateful for everything than I was the first time you asked me that question many years ago. The one who is proud of the man you grew up to be and who looks forward to more “firsts” in your life.  The one who tries really hard not to be like the mother in the book with the light blue cover who, let’s face it, made kind of a nuisance of herself for longer than was probably healthy for anyone in the story.  I’m working on not being that mom.  I am.

Your mom.  Yup. That’s my answer.

Forever and for always.

Bee Season

It is Bee Season.  Have you noticed?

When we were kids, summer up at the lake meant running barefoot in a yard dotted with white clover covered with bumblebees.

This often ended badly for one of my siblings, or cousins, or me.  And always for the bees.

Those bumblebees were large and furry. They looked like they’d be fun to hold in a cupped hand.   If they hadn’t had those stingers, we probably would have tried to keep them as pets just like the swirling, inky black clouds of baby bullheads we collected in minnow traps and kept in a bucket until our grandfather felt sorry for them and told us to let them go.

Most of the time, the bees just sort of bumbled along, minding their own business unless they were in imminent danger of getting squashed by a kid’s foot.  Their stings burned,  but some baking soda paste usually took the “bite” out fairly fast.  Our feet still went bare and warnings from people far more bee savvy than we were went largely ignored during those summers of sunburns, mosquito bites, and damp swimming suits removed only to sleep.

I have been thinking a lot about those bees this week.   A late night visit to the ER last summer after an allergic reaction to two yellow jacket bites is the reason.  The doctor who treated me that night told me that bee sting allergies are a lot like a ticking time bomb.  You play Bee Roulette once too often, and your number comes up. Thanks to those bumblebees from so many years ago, I guess mine finally did last summer.

I do my best to avoid buzzing things now. However, it seems that I have become a Bee Magnet.  I feel like I have a sign on my forehead that only bees can read that has “Sting Me!” written on it.

And so, when I’m filling my gas tank and suddenly I’m buzzed, I cringe and beat it to the other side of the car. When I weed my garden or try to mow the lawn, I have two or three of the ornery, sneaky little stinging machines following me around the yard as my heart races.  I tell my berry picking partner where I keep the Epi Pen, hoping that she knows how to use it if I get stung in the berry patch miles from town.

Despite all this nonsense,  I keep doing the things I want to do because I refuse to be beaten by bees.  I’m stubborn that way. Besides, too soon, there will be a hard frost and the maple leaves will change color. Then, months (months!) of winter will be upon us here in the North woods once again and the bees will go wherever bees go.  Bee Hell, perhaps.  I’ll make soup and bake more and wear wool sweaters and hibernate until next spring, like a bear.

I’ll keep warm remembering those sweet childhood summers of those seven pairs of dirty bare feet on seven blue eyed, bullheaded children who didn’t have time to worry about bumblebees or anything else, for that matter.  There was no time. We were far too busy enjoying one more sweet summer for any of us to care.

Memories take the sting out of most things, don’t they?

Corn dogs and fireworks…

He was a small boy of about two, and he needed a nap like no two year old in the history of two year olds at a carnival has ever needed a nap before.  He was sticky and hot and so not pleased with the corn dog his mother had just placed in front of him. Now, people older than two, when presented with a corn dog that displeases them have a couple of options.  They can either eat the corn dog, or not eat the corn dog. No big deal.  Exhausted toddlers at carnivals have a third option.  They can drop from the folding chair they are sitting in onto the grimy street below and scream at the top of their lungs. This appears to be the option that most two year olds choose.

Now, parents of two year olds also have options when a corn dog melt down occurs at a carnival.  Option one involves removing the offending corn dog from the two year old’s line of sight and replacing it with something else.  Option two is to continue having lunch as if nothing is happening while the two year old thrashes about on the pavement below.  The third, most difficult, option is to pick up the two year old and walk away from the corn dog as quickly as possible without looking back. My unscientific study shows that parents at carnivals almost never choose option three. This is unfortunate for the two year old and everyone else.

Because the thing about carnivals and two year olds is that there are a lot of expectations as to how things are going to go.  Young, well-meaning parents think that they are doing their two year olds  a favor by taking them into crowds of other two year olds to “have fun” and “go on rides” and “eat corn dogs” in July.  I did, too, a long time ago.  After all, what’s not to love about a place full of loud noises and strange smells and people and ponies?  It’s FUN, right?  Right??

It IS fun.  For approximately ten minutes.  After that, it is just a gory scene from a bad survivalist reality show for everyone.

I spent a lot of time last weekend walking through the festival, pondering this phenomenon of corn dogs and melt downs and little people.   How parents start out with such high expectations where carnivals and kids are concerned. How things go so terribly wrong so terribly fast when it is 84 degrees in the shade.  And then, I had a conversation with my great niece, Elyza Rose, who at the age of four, is seriously one of the smartest people I know.

Me: So, Elly, did you go on any fun rides? 

Elly: Nope.

Me: Why not?

Elly: I got a “Frozen” movie instead.  Got it taken away, though.

Me: Oh no! Why?

Elly: Naughty.

Me: Are you going to be naughty tomorrow?

Elly: I don’t know. Depends on if I get a good night’s sleep, I guess.

Yes, my smart, sweet, wise, fire cracker of a girl.  I guess it does, doesn’t it?

Whether we are two, or four, or fifty, or more.

I suppose it does.

Good things, small packages….

It’s Wild Rice Festival time once again!

By the time this goes to print, the carnival should be in town.  A whole lot of behind the scenes planning has taken place by a whole lot of people to make this annual weekend festival happen.  And happen, it has, each year for more than six decades.  Like most community festivals, there’s a little something for everyone.  It is a great chance to visit with old friends and an excuse for grown children to come home from the Cities and hang with their cousins.  There will be class reunions and a Flea Market to walk through, not to mention Bingo and dancing and cheese curds galore.  The church ladies (and gentlemen) will serve up turkey dinners and plates of wild rice hot dish.  The Lions will serve an astounding number of burgers from Friday to Sunday and the aroma of fresh fry bread will fill the air.  There will be drumming and tiny dancers in bright jingle dresses. Fireworks and pitchers of beer. Lots of beer. On Sunday, after everyone has recovered from the Saturday night street dance, there will be a parade and then a free open air concert in front of the Vet’s Club.  Everyone will be sunburned and dusty and full as they pack up their folding chairs and children and leave town. The Tilt-A-Whirl will pull out of town and the beer tent will come down for another year.  Deer River will go back to being the quiet little town it is the rest of the year.  Years ago, the festival was held in late August, closer to the time that wild rice was harvested from the local lakes and rivers.  It was the official end of summer back when school started before Labor Day. On Sunday nights, right before the last game of Bingo was called in the fire hall, there was usually a slight nip in the air that meant that autumn was on its way.  Now that it is in July, there is still a good month of summer to savor.

If you are a guest at a local resort this week looking for something fun to do that doesn’t involve dropping a line in the water, the Rice Festival is as good as it gets.  Trust me on this.  Deer River is small, that’s true.

But it can throw a festival like nobody’s business.