Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Of Life and Death

One Friday several weeks ago, I headed over to relieve the babysitter and was greeted at the baby gate by Sage.

"Mama! Mama! I have a bee!"

He articulated "bee" with exaggerated cuteness, grinned profoundly, and then handed me a tiny black beetle-like insect.

Startled, my fingers fumbled, and the "bee" scurried across my hands in a little dance. Sage and Thyme giggled with the delight they usually reserve for my aunt's bichon frise. Sage gently held out his tiny fingers and received the insect with astonishing care. My sons, who routinely kick my C-section scar during diaper changes and bash their skulls into my cheekbones, had fingers of gossamer when it came to this tiny little friend. I put aside my Urban Bitch desire for a hermetically-sealed, germ-free home and allowed The Bee free rein over both my carpet and my children.

The boys played happily with The Bee for a good chunk of time, until we had to venture out for the drive to my parents' house for the weekend. We--at least, I--didn't give the roaming insect another thought, we returned Sunday night, and, Monday morning, we prepped for the sitter's arrival.

Well, you can sort of guess what happened next. Heading through the baby gate, Sage remembered, "Oh, my bee!" and began to look for his friend. We found him, all right--legs up, on his back in the corner, pollinating The Great Flower in the Sky.

"Mama, fix The Bee!" Thyme bellowed. Sage handed me the insect eagerly, patiently waiting for me to revive it.

While I have absolutely no problem discussing penises, 'ginas, potties, pee, and poop with my two-year-olds, I have to say, death really rattles me. At a loss for what to tell them, I mumbled something about Mama needing to bring The Bee upstairs to fix him, hoping they'd forget.

No such luck. That afternoon, meeting me at the baby gate once again, Sage called out, "Mama! Mama fixed The Bee! Can I see it?"

The babysitter and I looked at each other and sighed. "They've been talking about it all day," she informed me. To them, this creature was as real and signficant as a dog or cat. Their first pet. Their first foray into their very own interspecies friendship venture. A contact with nature, with the universe, with life in an unfamiliar, if intriguing, form.

I panicked and did the only thing I could think to do: I lied.

"Listen, boys," I said as I knelt down, looking at their sweet, expectant faces, and trying to smile brightly. "I fixed The Bee, but he had to go home to his family." After some verbal back and forth, this seemed to satisfy them, and they went on to play. For days afterward, they would keep talking about The Bee and how he had to go home to his family. They would ask to see him in the park, and I would tell them that maybe they would.

Ty and I did a later postmortem (pun intended), and discussed how I could have better handled the incident, and age-appropriate ways to explain future such deaths to a two-year-old. "The Bee's all done." "The Bee's gone." "The Bee went to heaven."

I guess I just wanted to continue, as long as possible, the brief, brief moment in a child's life when Mama is magic, her kisses soothe wounds, her medicine makes you better, her food nourishes your hunger, and she injects life where there is none.