Friends with Bees

     If you’ve been reading my posts since our family moved to Italy, you’ve heard about the fact that our windows remain open since there is no air control or A/C system, but that there are no bug screens on our windows. Remnants of old ones were in the window frames, and so in August I asked the landlord to fix or replace the screens in order that bees, wasps, flies, mosquitoes, and interesting varieties of local Italian bugs stay outside. He had his grounds keeper remove the frames, bring them to a repair shop. But here we are in November and they have not been installed (despite many requests).
     In these months, I have transitioned from fighting bugs fiercely, to making friends with the situation. It helps, of course, the the weather is cooler, so there are fewer mosquitoes. But I’ve learned when to pull the shutters for a short while, like when cooking meals, and when to shut the windows, such as ones on the north side of the house in the morning or the east side in the afternoon, or all of them right at sunset.
    The other day the 6 kids had just returned from a long day at school and sat down to a huge lunch I had prepared for them: bruschetta, then pasta carbonara, then roasted zucchini and sausages. They recovered as they ate, and told stories about giving class presentations (the main way students get graded in Italian schools), the cheating going on around them, the professor with weird hair, the professor with clothes from the 80’s, the professor who looks like a pigeon. Tears come to their eyes as they explain that the math teacher does not know math. One of the kids tells how he explained (in Italian) to his new Italian buddy why Christians should not have sex outside marriage as they sat in the front row of chemistry class. They both have “A’s” in chemistry so the teacher did not mind.
    As we talked over lunch, a bee flew into the window just out of arm’s reach from my seat at the head of the long, rectangular table. I softly waved my hand and said in a gentle voice, “Out, please.” The bee flew right out and did not come back.
    One of the older kids said: “All growing up, we heard stories about saints and animals. St. Francis spent time with the birds and tamed the wolf in Gubbio. St. Benedict preached to the fish. St. Rita had bees fly in and out of her mouth when she was a baby without stinging her. But all those years, we lived in a house in suburban Irving, and so it all seemed so extreme. Now, living here in this 17th century house on a vineyard in Italy, you just politely asked that bee to leave and it left. Those stories suddenly seem a lot less noteworthy!”