While staying in Vermont for the month of July, I was asked by Mabel and Sadie’s mom, Amanda (an old friend), to babysit for them one Saturday, and to spend the night. She and her husband, Dan, were going to a wedding in a nearby town and would return late the next morning.
This was great for two reasons: 1. I love Mabel (7) and Sadie (4), and, 2. I missed being with kids!
I arrived at their house around 1pm that Saturday, and Amanda and Dan went on their way. After playing for a while, I suggested that we all go up the hill because I wanted to see their new (1950s) camper that they were fixing up. Sadie didn’t want to go, but I offered to carry her and said we would only stay for a while. Up the hill we walked, Sadie in bare feet in my arms and Mabel wearing her rain boots. At the top of the hill, we walked through Dan’s workshop and out to where the camper was parked. The camper was really small and cute and the girls delighted in showing me their fold-out bed, climbing in and out of the trap door leading up to it. After a while, I suggested we go back to the house and Sadie said: “I have to pee.” I lifted her down from the camper and she walked around to the front of it for some privacy. She immediately started screaming and crying as she ran into view. I jumped out of the camper to see what was wrong, with Mabel right behind me. Sadie was covered with swarming bees! (They were hornets we found out later.) I began hitting them off of her, careful not to hurt her, as they stung her legs and arms and clung to her dress. Mabel ran ahead into the shop but stayed nearby, watching this unfold. She wasn’t complaining of any stings, so I assumed they had chosen Sadie as their target. I tried to take Sadie’s dress off over her head to make sure they weren’t under her dress as well, but she wouldn’t let me. I was getting stung too, but only briefly attended to my own few stings. They hurt like hell! When I thought I had gotten all of the hornets off of Sadie, we ran back to the house, with Sadie in my arms and Mabel without her boots. So much drama!!
Coincidently, only days before, a friend sent me an email about bee, wasp and hornet stings. It said the very best remedy was to place pennies on the wounds. The copper prevents the sting sites from swelling and itching, if you hold them on the site for 15 minutes right after the sting occurs. The girls were intrigued as I told them about this while grabbing my wallet and dumping out the change. Fortunately there were plenty of pennies! As I attempted to apply them on all of Sadie’s six stings at once, she said: “Judy, I told you I didn’t want to go see the camper!” Knowing Sadie, I was just waiting for this! I said: “Sadie, I would never, ever do anything to hurt you on purpose. I didn’t know the bees were there, I promise.” Dear, sweet Mabel backed me up and I thanked her for that. I kept telling the girls (especially Sadie) how brave they were. It was quite a trick to keep all the pennies in place (while occasionally trying to put back the pennies that kept falling off my two stings). We noticed that the pennies left a really cool circle on Sadie’s skin after they came off. Mabel kept saying that she thought she might have been stung too. I told her that she would know if they had – it really hurt! – and that I was so happy that she hadn’t gotten stung. Of course, reassurances had to be repeated a number of times, but the penny trick was a great distraction. When the pain subsided a bit we found ourselves laughing about the whole thing. Now Sadie could go into the bathroom and pee! After a while, I called their grandmother, Jayne, to make sure there wasn’t anything else I should be doing. There wasn’t, but I should watch for swelling. Sadie had been stung before and swelled up like crazy. But, hours later, nothing. Only tiny bruises at some of the sites. Further disaster averted!! Later, they asked me why I hadn’t cried. After all, I had been stung too. I told them I was a grown-up and grown-ups had to keep calm and take care of kids first. They seemed to like that answer.
The next morning, we had friends over for breakfast, before Amanda and Dan got back. As people came in, we told the story of the “bees.” We saved a dead one, and were told they were hornets, not bees. It was all very exciting. Telling the story was actually fun.
Mabel kept saying her ankle hurt and she started limping. I tied a cold pack onto her ankle, but she kept limping. I quietly told one our guests that I thought Mabel felt left out of the drama. Mabel asked me later what I meant (she had heard me!). I said I thought she might be feeling left out. It wasn’t fun to get stung and I was glad she hadn’t been, but it was a cool story to tell, and everyone was really interested. She thought for a moment and said softly: “I think you’re right. Yes, I do feel left out.”
The next day we drove up to the camper to get Mabel’s boots. As we pulled up in the car, we saw a massive hornet’s nest under the front of the camper. I ran up to the camper, grabbed the boots, and ran back. We all felt very safe and powerful, happily inside the car with all the windows rolled up.