There is a wasp who won’t leave my office.

It’s been buzzing against the inside of the window for quite a while. A good half hour or so. Sadly for the wasp (and for me, too) the window in question won’t open. So I left the room, hoping that the open door and lack of witness would help the wasp to think creatively and turn the other way. It didn’t work. A coffee later, nothing has changed. I hope the wasp took a break, too.

It must be hurting its wings, continually pushing against the closed window like that. It can’t be happy. Which is making me nervous. If it does turn around and then notice that Plum and I are also sitting in this small room, there might be stings.

All the waspy noise is worrying Plum, too. He suggests that it sounded like the wasp wanted his mummy. Gold. But he also wondered if a lego water gun might help.  Then suggested that I clap the wasp between my hands. I said that would hurt it and maybe me, but he was adamant that it wouldn’t. He tells me that clapping is a happy thing to do. There aren’t many mosquitoes around here.

I’m sure the trouble is two-fold. The sky on the other side of the glass looks inviting, and the stained glass at the top of the window is bright red and green. The wasp can’t turn away. Its focus is held.

I won’t turn this into a metaphor. Any of it.

Before the wasp stole our attention, I was reading Rebecca Nye’s excellent book, Children’s Spirituality. She writes about becoming aware of the spirituality of children through remembering “the child who was you.” That phrase is buzzing around my head right now.

When I was a child, there was a swing set in the backyard. Not the kind that was in most people’s backyards – the one with the diagonal poles that sighed up out of the soil when you swung just high enough, or too high if your mother was watching.  Our set had monkey bars in the middle and swings that hung perpendicularly at each end. One afternoon, I sat on the swing, kicking my sandaled feet, and a wasp settled between the straps. I froze. I couldn’t swat it away because I had to hold on to the chains of the swing. I tried to kick, very gently, to dislodge it. The wasp crawled over the strap and down along my foot. Then it crawled onto the bottom of my foot, its tiny feet and buzzing wings moving between my sandal and my skin.

Sometimes, speech is impossible, but I must have said something because my little brother ran for Mum. I gripped the swing’s chains tightly. The wasp explored. No wind moved the leaves above my head. Everything stopped. Except for those tiny, tickly feet.

The summer before I’d been stung at a friend’s cottage. I knew how much this was going to hurt. I knew that I would have to have ice on my foot afterwards, and that would hurt, too. I thought walking would be out of the question. I might have to go to school in September on crutches. In a wheelchair even.

Patience. Urgency. Try not to breathe. Those tickly feet kept up their walk along my sole. Seven years passed. And then the backdoor opened and my mum came down the steps. She, too, walked slowly, as if she was worried the wasp could sense her coming. Hold still, she said gently, and I watched her fingers unbuckle the strap and ease the sandal from my arched foot, making space for the wasp to escape. Dazed, it settled for a moment on the swing set pole, then suddenly took flight, and my mother shooed it away, flapped her hands as if she, too, might fly away.

After that, I loved the swing. It became the very edge of things. The terrible perch. The place of courage My favourite place.


About Katie Munnik

Katie Munnik is an Ottawa writer currently living in Cardiff with her Spouse and three growing children. Each Monday on the Messy Table, she writes about the practice of reading lectionary and the practical theology of parenting - from birthday cakes to broken hearts and everything in between. Katie also writes Kaleidoscopically, a monthly column in the print edition of the Presbyterian Record. You can also find Katie on twitter @messy_table Subscribe to this blog.