Repairing the Bee
When I first found the bee, it was at the bottom of a box along with a broken clay hand and a green and gray soapstone sea turtle with a severed flipper. The hand is my son’s hand, a clay impression from when he was five years old, the upturned palm with curved fingers held as if about to receive something into it, empty and smooth except for the little bumpy ridges of his name scratched into the palm where the life lines would have been. The bee is a clay bee slightly larger than a bumblebee, with purple wings, a royal blue body and an orange head. You can still see the prints of my daughter’s tiny fingertips, age 4, the way they shaped the body and pinched the wings just so. When I found the pieces, I could see where the shiny purple glaze of the wings was interrupted by the break, exposing white clay edges. Holding the piece in place, the purple looked unbroken, and the wing looked smooth again, ready for flight.
At first when I found these things, I was getting ready to move and thought, “What am I going to do with all these broken clay things?” I told myself to get rid of them. But how can a mother throw away objects that were shaped by her children’s hands, given with such enthusiasm, the only life-sized relic of when they were small? I decided it would be better to bury them, and put them on top of the bookshelf. I was too exhausted to take action at that moment and overwhelmed by the sudden realization that the proper placement of their grave was in the corner of the backyard near the place where the baby blue jay was buried, the one who flew into the sliding glass door and dropped lifeless to the flagstone.
Eventually, the day came to do the burial. I went outside with the trowel and began to dig. The ground was too hard. I felt like a criminal kneeling to complete some kind of furtive dirty business, and I couldn’t do it. The prayer song stuck in my throat, the ground wouldn’t yield, and my heart turned to straw. So I walked back into the house and put the hand and the bee and the turtle back in the basket on the bookshelf and forgot about them again, until I actually did move and had to decide again what to do with all those pieces.
At the drugstore I found a tube of Elmer’s glue especially for ceramic and glass. At the new house, I stood at the counter and looked at the way it was illuminated by the slanting rays of afternoon sun, which made a very good light for seeing all the pieces, and I began putting them back together, surprised at how easily all the tiny shards slid into place.
Emboldened by my success, I gathered other broken things and repaired them as well: the blue dreaming bowl, the saucer with three herons that my daughter, now grown, had sent, but that had gotten broken in the mail, and the wide, white pasta dish that I loved. Even the Oaxacan black clay devil and the angel of death are back in each other’s arms, standing on the mantel about to kiss. When I finished, I found myself thinking, This must be what it feels like to be God on a good day.