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Bring back the bee!

How sharing our stories eases our burdens

I have five cutting boards, which is quite a lot when your house is small. I almost gave most of them away in an impromptu Marie Kondo session. They made it to the giveaway box before I realized they did indeed bring me much more than joy. They provided companionship and listening skills and doubled as tables mid-move or when the table is full of school books or laundry, but people are hungry. They’ve helped create soup and applesauce and freezer baggies full of onions and peppers and were well used and worth saving, even in a kitchen that can’t fit much.

I have four daughters. Four daughters that sit around our table and peel and chop while audio book stories play I the background, mostly for enjoyment but also to eliminate arguing over who isn’t cutting their share. I join them occasionally with cutting board number five, though I’m usually mixing and measuring or cooking and canning while they ready it for me. The complaints are few if the stories are good and I learned long ago to invest in audio books, dramatized audio and even the abundant and free LibriVox stories. My kids don’t notice the drudgery while immersing themselves in a story. They dive deep into the plot and suddenly, ten pounds of potatoes are peeled and chopped and ready for soup.

The older they get, the less they need the background stories and the more they share their own. I think my mom must’ve done the same with my sisters and me. When we are together we set tables and put assembly-line style meals together with the speed and accuracy of years of practice. We tell our own stories now and listen to each others’, soaking up conversation and building camaraderie while we whip things into shape or feed 20-plus hungry kids. We are filled up while pouring out.

Now, I know that my mom wasn’t the originator of her girls working together over stories. I think of the quilting bees women gathered for so many years ago. A bee is an expression used to describe a gathering of peers to accomplish a task. Women gathering together, especially in the more isolated areas, helped overcome the loneliness that so many pioneer women experienced. It has been said, that next to church, going to quilting bees was the primary contact for women. They gathered for purpose and for pleasure, to share their work and their stories. I suppose the need to hear and be heard has always been important. The work needs to be done, why not do it over conversation and togetherness?

I used to go to a monthly ladies scrapbooking night when my kids were small. I didn’t actually scrapbook, but oh did I need the community and the conversation! If my pantry needed organizing or books or clothes needed sorting, I called a sister to come and help and made a meal that we shared together when the work was done. Why not make the dreaded or mundane things in our life fly by amid shared stories? I know there will be plenty of things to persevere through on our own, but if I can get together and talk and laugh or cry and be comforted and make meatballs for the freezer or can applesauce to last the long winter, I’m definitely choosing the one that includes sisterhood and fun.

Perhaps we need to bring back the bee in whatever form that fits life now. I imagine all of our spirits would be lifted in ways we didn’t expect simply by sharing our stories while we work. Surely we would come away with much more than meals for our freezers. I will bring the cutting boards!

Written by Rebekah Engebretson


Rebekah lives in a little house on the prairie with her husband and 4 daughters near Watford City. She is a huge North Dakota fan and loves people and taking pictures and personality tests.

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