Not that clever

by Margot Callahan, Contributing Writer

We were quite proud of ourselves for creating a cool 9th birthday party for our son. It was hot in mid August, and families were gearing up for back-to-school. We called the parents and said to drop off their kids mid-morning, (brothers were included, so 6-9 year-olds) and we would feed them lunch, cake and have them back by mid-afternoon. We could hear the
happiness in their voices as we described the treasure hunt we had put together, and that they would be kid-free for a big chunk of the day.

There would be teams, (fostering teamwork, oh so clever!) and each team would get a map into the small wooded area near our house. They would follow the map to a bag of booty, turn that bag in for a question to answer (something related to school- we were really thinking now!) and receiving other maps, leading, ultimately, to a bag of real booty full of nickels, dimes and quarters to be divided between them.

My spouse hid the dirtied cloth bags, which were tied with twine, that morning (we were really going for authenticity) before it got too warm. He chuckled and patted himself on the back for the cool map drawing that included fantasy creatures and fish—in the woods! The boys arrived excited, and after our giddy explanation of the hunt, ready to explore.

It was close to 90 degrees and humid by late morning as our merry band of treasure hunters embarked on the short walk to the woods- and weren’t we smart to have this treasure hunt in the much cooler woods? At the top of the hill, where the trail began into the trees, we corralled the boys around us, going over the rules and reminding them that they had to come
back as a team or they wouldn’t get their next clue. Remembering to “leave no man behind,” especially when it’s your annoying younger brother, isn’t easy. Maps in hand and lots of strategizing talk and they were off!

We sat at home base still basking in our joy of creating this terrific party. “We would have loved this at their age! You did a great job on the maps! Oh, I hear the first screams!” We waited for the first team to exit the woods. More screams or was that screaming? Is that happy screaming? And we saw the larger kids running from the woods frantically waving their arms. One had his brother in his arms. And now we understood what they were screaming, “Bees!” Yellow jackets were stuck to their bodies and clothing and the boys were already getting welts. “Anyone allergic?! Anyone allergic?!” Swapping at the hundreds of, by now, listless one-sting-you’re-done bees to get them off of the sobbing and frantic boys, we tried to calm everyone down. It had turned into a horrible mess.

Did you know that you can hide something in a bee nest when it’s cool and not even know it? When the weather warms and the bees get active, especially in late summer when their lifespans are coming to an end, they get very aggressive.

Our very sorry band of crying, feet dragging, petrified children paraded home not 15 minutes from when our clever adventure began. Lunch was left uneaten, although the cake and soda helped distract from the angry stings on skinny legs, arms and faces. All the extra ice was applied to welts. Telling the boys that they would have a story to share for the rest of their lives didn’t have much impact.

Fortunately, no one was allergic. That was about as fortunate as we got. All the parents understood, but at least one boy had to go to the doctor because of the amount of pain he was in.

After the last child had been picked up, and our boys were comfortably on the couch, slathered in anti-sting cream, my spouse and I agreed that it had been one of the worst days, and how lucky that no one was allergic. Then, after a long pause, “It was a great idea.”