In the latest “Love, Recorded,” Matt and his wife and baby go to a wedding full of bees.
We are going to a wedding in New Hampshire, my wife and I and the baby. It happens to be plus-90 outside and a three-hour drive, but we are going. This is one of my last good friends from undergrad, and we haven’t seen her in almost a year. We have rented the Zipcar. We have made a plan: go to Gymboree in the morning, buy Grace a new toy for the ride, then head off making frequent pit stops.
We wake up late, of course.
My wife has spent much of the night making a dozen different foods. Babies are unpredictable. We need to keep her occupied. When we wake, we’re almost late for Gymboree already. We have to pack diapers, a new change of clothes, a bottle and warm water and powder to make milk, shoes, etc. We have to get the car seat in, a task that is always much harder than it should be. We have no time to pack all we need for the ride to New Hampshire, so we go to Gymboree without, planning to return to the house, eat lunch, and then leave.
We’re late, but not by so much. As Cathreen and Grace go to class, I hit the toy store. I am in there for fifteen minutes looking through the hundreds of toys that don’t seem right, or like they will occupy the baby for a long-enough pportion of 3 hours, or like they are worth 20 or 30 dollars. The woman behind the counter asks if she can help, and I am glad to get this out of my hands. She chooses a flower that opens up to a caterpillar inside.
When I get back to Gymboree, class is over. My wife looks at the toy and takes it back to the toyshop to return it. She’s in there her own thirty minutes.
We scarf down fried rice, blame each other for being late, and finally get everything in the car and set off. We can make zero stops, since we are now scheduled to arrive ten minutes before the wedding.
Another column about a journey. It seems like every time we set out in a car, something strange happens to us, to make us fear for our daughter’s happiness. This column isn’t about us making it up to New Hampshire. It isn’t about the wedding—beautiful—or the feelings the ceremony brings up in Cathreen and me.
It’s about the heat, and the bees that swarm the reception. It’s about the ER. It’s about the fear that we are putting our daughter in precarious situations while we try to grasp onto the last bits of our old life. It’s about barely making it home. It’s about the miracle of home.
When we get to the wedding, it’s still plus-90 and the ceremony is outside. Grace runs around, screaming from time to time. We draw her farther and farther away from the bride and groom and the video camera. The groom cries. A lot. It is very very sweet. Then everyone hikes up the hill to the reception.
We are hoping that at the top of the hill is some kind of air-conditioned structure. But what is there is a tent. What is there are bees. Lots of bees. Like many Koreans, Cathreen and I are allergic. As a boy, I once picked up a wasp’s nest in Maine, thinking it was a pine cone, and ended up in the hospital nearly dead. I have a prescription for an Epipen, but I never carry one because I am afraid of how dull the needle is. The trainings we did, back then, only scared me out of using one forever.
It is not a good policy, fear.
Cathreen is wearing a floral-patterned dress. Grace is in red. Everyone else has wisely worn duller colors, as if they knew what was coming.
I keep swatting at the bees, and Cathreen keeps telling me to walk away, but we are both stressing. We have no idea what will happen if Grace gets stung. She wants us to hold her, but if we lift her up, to bee-level, they are everywhere. We try to get her to run around the dance floor, something she does happily for a while. We drink glass after glass of water, wishing it were something stronger.
When it gets to be too much, I go down for the Zipcar and drive it up the hill. I park it there and turn the air on full blast and we get Grace inside, bees circling like sharks. We wait it out for just a little while. I notice several other cars pull in alongside me.
Outside, the reception is going really beautifully. The maid-of-honor gives a speech that breaks hearts, about finding each other. Cathreen and I feel all the feelings you feel at weddings, remember our own, remember that we had one, which sometimes, in the midst of child-rearing, can be forgotten. Grace refuses to take a nap.
By the time dinner comes, the sun has mostly set and the bees are going to sleep, or wherever they go, and the steak is steak (we haven’t had steak in so long, we realize) and the dance floor is crowded and happy and in the photo booth Grace mugs for the camera and all is well, at least, for a while. As we drive away, long before everyone else will leave, we look back and see the tent lit up in the middle of the night, and it makes sense: like a wedding reception in a movie. We feel like we are part of the film of our friends’ lives.
We have three more hours ahead of us, sweaty and exhausted. Grace falls asleep right away, without anymore stimulation. For a couple of hours, we talk about love. Then Grace wakes up and we start to notice something. She won’t eat. She keeps touching her head and screaming. When Cathreen reaches up there, she feels two bumps. We pull the car over. There are two red dots in the parts in our baby’s hair.
What did Chekhov say about a gun on the mantelpiece?
“It could be mosquito bites,” I say. “It could be flies.” I was bitten by something earlier in the day but I didn’t swell, just itched, on my forehead.
Cathreen points us to the ER. We still have almost an hour until Boston. We pray our daughter won’t get worse between here and there. The parents’ prayer.
We get to the Children’s Hospital at almost 2 in the morning. I keep blinking myself awake on the empty roads. We are sent straight in, quicker, it seems to me, than the last time we were here. A nurse appears, but it is our daughter’s newest habit to scream if anyone she doesn’t know tries to touch her. We cannot get her still enough to find the bites/stings again. The nurse says maybe if we wait for her to fall asleep. We keep feeling her head for the bumps–the swelling, at least, seems to have gone down. I am falling asleep. Grace is wide awake. Cathreen asks me to rest on the hospital bed, but I don’t want to look like the guy who brings his daughter into the ER and then goes to sleep on her bed while she stays awake in pain.
When the nurse comes back, I have slept for about 5 minutes. Grace has slept not at all. We hold her down, but the results are unclear. What the nurse sees, she says, could be anything. All we can do, she says, is what they always say to do: go home, monitor, hope for the best. We hope for the best, every time.