We were at Bush Lake, and so were the wasps.
It was the last Mama-Little L Adventure of summer. I knew, but I didn't tell Little L. I learned my lesson when I focused so much on online music class ending with the teacher she had for three years. Better to just go enjoy the day.
Little L made sand castles while I shoveled and raked at her command - she had brought two shovels and two rakes so I couldn't sit idly by watching her do all the beach work. A wasp circled Little L. Was it trying to drink nectar from her blue and white flowered swim shirt? A wasp buzzed around me. Was it trying to get inside my thermos of unopened coffee? I wished they'd go away so I could open it up and have a sip.
I carefully coaxed a wasp out from the cuff of her swim shirt, my heart beating faster. "Mama, why are there so many bees?" she asked, not having noticed the one trying to get inside her suit.
"Let's go swim," I told her, knowing no matter how cold the water was on this early September morning, she would never say no.
It was cool, to say the least. Refreshing. "Mama, where's my floatie?" Little L asked. Alas, I had forgotten it. I don't want to jinx myself, but maybe four is less reactive than three; she just said "Maybe I can swim without it."
I thought, "Is this my child?"
She tried to swim by holding herself up on her hands in the shallow area and kicking her feet. For milliseconds at a time, she picked her hands up, and kicked or dragged on her stomach, which of course, she took as swimming. "You're learning!" I said. "You're practicing!" Her smile was huge.
When her shivers got big enough, we ran for our towels and for the car. Bees followed. Little L shrieked, "The bees are following us, Mama!" They were. They totally were.
"What do you think Gamma would do if she was here with all these bees?" Gamma is allergic to wasps so she's wary around them, for good reason.
"She would stay in the car," Little L wisely noted.
And then came the downfall of my plan. I got Little L into the backseat, while I stood outside the car, getting her dressed in dry clothes for the way home. I tried to close the door as much as I could.
But then the shrieks began. "Mama, Mama, a BEE!" The car door was half-open; there was a car parked next to us. The windows were closed. I was blocking the exit. I stepped away and waved my arm and then I saw a bee right below the open car door, on the outside of the car. It must have flown out. Thank goodness. I shoved the door closed and jumped in the driver's seat.
"What's crap, Mama?" Little L asked. "What's crap? Mama, Mama, what's crap?"
I fought a smile. For someone who grew up with quite the list of profanities, I am able to censor myself around my child, because I'm used to choosing my words carefully - I work with kids all day long. If only my brother David had this quality; we've had to mute many a holiday Zoom session for words Little L doesn't need to learn yet; my mom didn't have that choice when we spent real live family get-togethers with my well-versed Aunt MK. But the bee got to me. I'm surprised that was the only four letter word she learned that day.
"It's a thing that adults say sometimes when they get upset," I tell her, shivering a little both from my cold suit and the bee-in-the-car situation.
"But why adults, Mama?" she repeats as she buckles the top of her carseat. We really need to switch her to a booster like the pediatrician said; she's getting so tall. I lean into the back seat to get the bottom buckle, a maneuver that isn't all that easy in a Honda Civic. Click! We're ready to—
Oh no, no, no, NO!
Another bee was buzzing around. In the back window of the car. Behind Little L, who was now fully strapped into her five point carseat harness.
What would you have done? Gone back there and gotten her out? Gone back outside where the multitudes of wasps reigned? Taught her some new four-letter words?
The bee settled into the back window. I turned the ignition and lowered the windows.
At least this distracted her from my poor vocabulary. "Why are you putting the windows down, Mama?"
"Ummm, I think there's a bee in the car, love. But maybe it will just fly out. We'll have to wait to have snacks." Snacks - when I had a kid, I thought I would never let her eat in the car. And now, eating in the car is one of her favorite pastimes, and we have the cheerio-peanut-butter encrusted floor car to show it. In fact, the bee was probably going to have quite a heyday on leftovers alone.
I expected to see the bee fly out by the time we exited the park. Or got to the main road. Or turned onto the freeway entrance.
"Watch for it! Let me know if it flies out!" I told Little L. What would Gamma do if a bee was in the car? I thought. I was pretty sure it wasn't what I was doing. There was probably a better solution; I just couldn't think of it.
"It's going to get really loud," I told her as I pulled on to 169 North. I put the windows halfway up.
Luckily for me, Little L shares my love of air whooshing through her hair. The first time I put the car windows all the way down on a summer evening, she started dancing in her carseat with delight. That's the way I feel.
But the sounds of loud trucks passing detracted from the ambiance, so I raised and lowered the windows accordingly.
"Ah! Ah! Ah!" Little L was flailing in her seat now. "It's getting me, Mama!" I looked in the rearview mirror and lowered all the windows, all the way. It was buzzing near her, it seemed. Had it stung her? Trucks and cars whooshed past on both sides of me. There was nothing to do but continue driving.
"Are you okay, honey? Did it sting you?"
She settled down as it must have buzzed away. "No, it just came close to me."
"Why do you think Bee wants to take a ride in our car?" I asked her. "Do you think it's trying to get to Minneapolis?"
Little L laughed. If there's one thing she loves besides water and wind, it's making up stories. "Mama, Mama, Bee is trying to get to Minneapolis. Why do you think it wants to get to Minneapolis?"
"I don't know," I shout over the rushing wind; I will not be putting the windows up anytime soon. "Do you think it's trying to come to Minneapolis, or do you think it's an accident? I wonder what it's going to think when it realizes it's not at Bush Lake anymore?"
"Mama, Mama, what will Bee think?"
And so it went the rest of the way home, me watching the exit signs, wondering why I chose to get a bee stuck in the car so far from home. We had two more bouts of the bee buzzing near her. I kept the narrative going. "Here you go, Bee, we're in downtown. Maybe it wants to get out and work downtown. Maybe it's a Busy Bee!"
Relief flooded me as we pulled into the alley. "Okay, love, I'm going to park in the driveway instead of the garage. I'll help you get out and then we can look for Bee."
We made sure it wasn't lurking inside her shoes or backpack and got her out. Then I opened all of the doors and we waited.
"Can you go see if Papa is available?" I asked. One of the benefits of his working from home is that if he's in-between meetings, I can get his quick thoughts on situations like the Bush Lake Bee.
She emerged a minute later with Axel in tow.
"What's going on?" he asked, amused and slightly concerned.
"Bee stowed away in our car and now we're trying to get it out," I said. "But I don't see it anywhere. Should I just leave the car open out here all day?"
Axel poked his head in and looked. "I don't see it or hear it," he said. "I think you can pull it into the garage and just leave the windows open.
We never saw or heard from Bee again. Maybe she hopped out somewhere on 35W North and decided to hitch a ride back South. Maybe she snuck out upon our arrival and has become part of a Bee family here in Minneapolis.
And so ended our last Mama-Little L Adventure of summer. It was nothing if not full of wind, water, and drama.