by Jen Drake
Marriage wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I was married in January of 2001, and by February I was pregnant. The shock of that pregnancy test rocked my world, horrifying me. My family, of course, had to be excited for me. They didn’t believe in abortions. Neither did I. I would sit in the bathwater, hoping the heat would dissipate the alien growing inside. When I was in the orange groves for bee pollination, I started spot-bleeding.
Two days later, I miscarried. My mother, in deep sorrow, called up all my family and friends to tell them to call me; instead of providing comfort, they provided bitterness as each one called, cried, and wanted to know the gory details. I quit answering the phone.
Minnesota is a land of promise in early fall, the closest to the Garden of Eden I think I’ll ever see. After orange pollinating was over in California, our group of beekeepers moved to the middle of Minnesota for honey extraction and tree pollination. I had just gotten married, was in love, and believed I had the world in my 18-year old fingertips. A college drop-out, I transitioned into beekeeping, hoping it would provide stability within my transitionary and always moving spirit, and force me to commit and settle to one place instead of moving like a gypsy from one state to another. I always became bored with one location and with the people I was around rather quickly, and I thought the romantic ideas of becoming a beekeeper would fulfill my notions of happiness, along with the young boy I had married. That summer was filled with picnics in the park, canoeing the rivers on Saturdays, and taking our four-wheelers to Spider Lake on Sundays for some trail riding and “mudding.” Of course we worked hard. I learned quickly to be naked underneath my bee suit, because the humidity would just about make me frantically wild when we worked in an enclosed bee yard where no breeze filtered through, just the hot sun, forcing rivers of sweat to drip down my dirty face. Bees would sometimes swarm my face in anger, trying to force their stingers through my mask. In retaliation, every time I put a hive lid back on, I squished as many buggers as I could. Guilt for Mother Nature’s bees was banished.
The 24th wedding anniversary of my parents and 54th of my grandparents had arrived but since it was so early in the morning, I decided to call them after getting back from the bee yard. I had just zipped my faded white suit up and slipped my hands into the over-sized gloves. My tender hands were still swollen from the night before, where we had to stay out late in the pouring rain to load the bees and move them into another bee yard. In the rain, bee stingers go straight through leather gloves, so it wasn’t until late that night when I pulled out more than fifty stingers from my puffy hands.
Paul, our 75 year old boss with Parkinsons, shakily rattled on the door. “Turn on the radio!” he rasped, and walked away. I don’t remember what the first words were that I heard, except that both Twin Towers in New York City had collapsed. I stood on the green shag carpet, staring at my bee suit reflection in the mirrors as I listened to the radio, beekeeper hat in hand, gloves still on. The news sounded too outrageous; I had to see it for myself. I called my parents on the thirty minute drive to our friend’s house, telling them to turn the TV on, the end of the world had come for New York.
I never did call the biologicals back to wish them a happy anniversary. I couldn’t, not when so many balls of fire were hurtling down from the towers, balls of fire that were formerly men and women. I sat in front of the TV and cried all day. I heard news that the local people were waiting in a long line to fill up on gas, since people expected a freeze in the way the country operated. As the tolling numbers of death rose, a huge pit in my stomach made me ache all over. Somewhere I heard upwards of 20,000 people were dead. I thought about going to church that night to pray with the rest of America, but I couldn’t force myself to do it. Instead, I remained paralyzed. It was too late to pray. All I could do, along with the rest of America, was hope that people would be found beneath the rubble.
I still hope the America we all used to know can be found beneath the rubble that has been placed upon us.
September 11, 2001 was the end of so much goodness in America. It was also the end of goodness for that time period of my life. Shortly thereafter, the guy I was with began the painful process of emotionally leaving me and later the divorce papers came, with our untidy signatures next to our names. My life, both as an individual, and as a citizen, changed. I feel blessed in my life to have a second chance at love; yet, I feel desperately sad for America right now, hoping that she, we, have not crossed the “no turning back” threshold. The grief of what 9/11 stood for still stands, compounded by the pain of what our leaders are doing to take us down a road that makes me look away, unwilling to admit the full scope of what we have been dragged into. I wonder if our American idealism has blinded us to the things our country is doing on our turf and around the world.
When September 11 rolls around, I find myself ignoring my parent’s and grandparent’s anniversary. It is no longer a day of happiness or goodness. It is one that all of us wish we could erase from the annals of history. My young idealism of newly falling in love has dissipated. I have traveled Europe, worked in the State Legislature two sessions, graduated from college, and applied to over thirty jobs before I managed to land a small position with low pay but one I was grateful to have. I hear my parents and grandparent’s generation saying how much harder it is for them, for us, to make ends meet. In the newest magazine of AARP, the headline states that many senior citizens are going hungry. A headline from California tells of middle class citizens losing their homes and jobs and living out of their cars in newly created safe parking lots. Another headline stated that if currently unemployed, it will take a person over four months before landing a professional job. Some banks have had to close. The middle class is shrinking. Perhaps my feelings of being lost in this world are reciprocated by our whole country, where new ways of thinking and surviving is putting us behind and in the wrong lane.
So September 11 is almost here. I’m not sure what I’ll do. Probably go to work, come home, have a glass of wine, and let myself be transported back to 2001, yet again, and hope that next year’s 9/11 will show a better outlook for America’s future than this one.