My mother’s bedtime stories narrated her childhood encounters with fairies and dwarves, her adventures in the meadows of Natternbach (her hometown in Austria, Europe), and her memories of her family of seven, all too familiar with my own siblings, as we are now a family of six.
So when we all went to Austria during the summer of 2006, my notion that this was a land of fairy tales proved to be true. The rolling hills sprinkled with wildflowers, the cottages with cherry-red roofs, and the magical sparkling streams were exactly as I had imagined them. We were finally here, the land of the “Sound of Music,” alive all around us.
The reason we came, to attend Robert and Sandra’s wedding, all the more reminded me of those bedtime stories: the prince and princess, and of course the happily ever after.
We were staying at my Aunt Friedl’s beautiful farm, swarming with chickens, cows, and newborn kittens. However, once we got settled in and the wedding hullabaloo faded away, my brothers, my sister, and I were faced with something we overlooked. Chores.
Yes, the animals had to be fed, the eggs gathered, the cows milked, the barns cleaned… an endless list. Marcel was assigned to the chickens. That included keeping them safe from the dog, herding them into the barn gates, shutting up the rooster, and of course gathering the eggs.
Cecile and Paul dealt with errands here and there: piling the hay, putting up and taking down the laundry from the line, and feeding the cats and the dog. And me, lucky me, I was the beekeeper.
I still had hope in this charming place. Maybe the bees would form a spiraling dance around me and hum sweetly and willingly share their honey. I put on the suit and the net with this hope, and marched toward the bees’ shed with confidence. The bees did not purr or buzz or hum. They rumbled and vibrated the air around me like an angry machine. There were so many of them. I looked behind me at the sparkling sun and windblown grass in the meadow. I looked before me at the mad flurry of bees, a blizzard of threat and anger.
I must have fallen asleep by the time my mom got to this part of the bedtime story.
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