When I was five I went to a birthday party for a friend. We were supposed to dress up like our mothers, and so I did. My long hair was tucked back, behind a kerchief. Hoop earrings dangled from my ears. My skirt brushed the tops of my sandal-clad feet. Gingham may have been involved.
When I got to the party, I looked around. Most of the girls there were dressed in fluffy skirts that grazed their knees. They had hose and pumps on. Circles of bright rouge stained their cheeks and their hair was oddly constructed and stiff.
I looked at them. I looked at me.
I realized my family was different.
And you know, growing up in my family was good. There were things I loved about it, like Mom reading aloud to us at night, and sitting atop Dad’s shoulders, where I could see everything and owned the whole world. However. I decided, right there and then, at age five, wearing natural fabrics in a polyester world, that when I grew up I would NOT be different. I would BLEND, dammit.
Looking at my life today, I believe I have mostly achieved normalcy. I’m a minivan driving mom. Dinner tonight came out of a crock pot. Yes, I homeschool, but to my amazement even THAT has become somewhat ordinary. Often, when I confess that I homeschool, people respond, “Oh, my cousin/sister/friend/neighbor does that!” It’s not a statement of approval or disapproval, but just recognition of something some people do, and that’s fine by me.
Yet there are flaws in my pleasing façade of average. Last week I was on the phone with a friend and I heard myself say,
“Oh shoot, I’m gonna have to let you go. Tre’s hive is swarming.”
And it was. A great cloud of bees filled the air, drifting across the neighbor’s yard. It settled in a tree on the far side of their yard, a compliant hunk of bees causing the branch to sag a bit under its weight.
I called my dad, who is a beekeeper, and is relentlessly leading my children down that path. Dad spends much of the spring season capturing swarms for people. He was very excited by the news and said he would be right over.
“Tre can hive his first swarm!”
So Tre did, while neighbors gathered in the street to watch and take several nervous steps back as they emerged from the yard carrying this:
I stood aside, chatting calmly with the lady whose yard had been the lucky swarm landing zone. “Don’t worry; bees don’t usually sting when they’re swarming. Besides, these are from Tre’s hive, and it’s a very gentle colony. Yes, we have a beehive in our back yard. Two, actually.” She looked at me with a slightly wild-eyed expression. You WHAT?
Tre hived his first swarm, and it was a great success. When it was done, he swaggered in to tell me all about it. He was wearing shorts, and was very pleased with himself that he didn’t mind the bees crawling on his legs.
“I just brushed them off, Mom! We beekeepers are like that, you know. We don’t mind.”
He was so proud of himself that he glowed.
I was so proud of him that I didn't care what the neighbors thought.
And I had to admit…
Different isn’t all that bad.