One summer when I was about five or six years old, we visited my grandma’s house in Michigan. She lived on a small lake that was situated about ten miles inside the Michigan state line. My great aunt lived there, as well, about three houses down the shore. Everyday to go from one house to the other, we would count the three houses we passed because they were all white and seemed the same to a small child. We only swam at my great aunt Aglaia’s house because her husband had built a long peer and dumped sand on the ice for several winters until there was a beautiful beach in front of their home. Everyone who lived on “our” side of the lake swam at “Keck’s Beach.”
One particular day stands out in my mind—I will never forget it. We were ready to go swimming, all wrapped up in big fluffy towels and donning last years faded swimming lesson suits. No matter what color a swimming suit begins, they all end up a brown-blue that only over-chlorinated public pools can produce. My two or three year-old brother’s suit was stretched out to the point that he had to wear a belt duct-taped to the waistband to keep from losing his trunks as he jumped repeatedly from the dock into the clear cool lake water. My suit was probably indecently thin, as well as being indecently baggy with my tiny child-breasts poking out above the neckline and my little butt showing as the back of Wonder-Woman star-clad bottoms hung loosely, the crotch dangling just above my fleshy little knees.
My brother and I, we must have been six and three, were racing toward the lake clutching our towels and trying to keep from tripping over our flip-flops that were purchased too-big so we could wear them again the next summer. My brother was wearing his Floaties pushed up by his shoulders, because he couldn’t yet swim and was a little scared of the water though no one knew the level of his terror because of his tenacity in jumping off the dock. Instead of waiting until we got to the lake to put them on, he wore them on the short walk to the beach because he, like a miniscule steam engine with a one-track mind, ran full throttle all the way past the end of the pier splashing unabashedly into the water. Suddenly, as we ran, I felt an icy-hot sensation just behind the place where the strap of my flip-flop thonged the big toe and second toe of my right foot. There was something stuck between the sole of my foot and the spongy plastic of the shoe. I reached down with my left hand and whatever it was flew up into my face causing me to emit screams of terror.
As I screamed, I lost my balance and fell forward into a patch of clover. The ground came alive as what seemed like hundreds, probably ten, bees swarmed up from the flowers from which they were feeding. They buzzed and hummed adding to the already chaotic scene. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that I am extremely allergic to bee stings. My foot swelled to about twice its size, as well as my ankle and leg growing to mammoth proportions. They were instantly fevered and I couldn’t breath very well. Luckily, only one bee had actually stung me, so I avoided a trip to the hospital. My fun day ended with me groggily drugged up on Benadryl—if only I could find something legal that would do to me now what Benadryl did to me then. For six hours I sat in the warm sun by the lake in a plastic woven lawn chair, dazed with my baking-soda-coated-foot elevated, watching all the other kids play the games I had made up. Maybe bees are Wonder Woman’s Kryptonite? Did they have bees on Thymiscera?