The first time I saw this thing outside my dad’s house, I sort of snickered.
I remember staring at it, thinking, “Good heavens, that’s just awful. Whatever it is.”
And then I pretty much ignored it, except to cast a sideways glance in its direction every time I passed. Now I realize, like nearly everything in my dad’s home, it has a purpose. A very important one.
Whenever I visit my dad, my stepmother makes us breakfast. She does this without fail, every single morning. It’s kind of miraculous if you consider that we’re getting up at crazy hours because of jet-lag. Some days, Rand will get up long before me. Some days, he’ll get up after. It doesn’t matter: regardless of what time we sit down at the long wooden table in their living room, she places a small plate or a wooden cutting board in front of us.
The offerings are always different and a little unexpected, at least by our cereal-every-day standards. One morning we’ll have fresh pretzels smeared with butter, and slices of pink ham on the side. On another she’ll make us scrambled duck eggs with a side of raw cherry tomatoes. It’s always wonderful. It always has us asking, “Margit, was ist das?”
What is this?
This time around, our breakfast was simple, but no less amazing. Slices of a dark brown bread so packed with sunflower seeds that every bite crunched. On top she had spread butter and a generous helping of honey.
The honey. Good lord. I don’t even know where to begin.
It was the best honey that I have ever had. It was thick and cloudy, light gold in color – nothing like the amber-colored syrup we have here in the states. The texture was rough and grainy, dissolving against my tongue, the taste mild and herbaceous. I caught myself licking the knife on more than one morning – a risky venture under the best of circumstances, and downright reckless when one is severely jet-lagged.
Rand and I both commented on it.
“Margit, Margit, the honig … sehr gut.”
“Ja, ja,” she’d say, and carry on with whatever she was doing – reading a paper, or brushing her insolent pug, or doing the dishes.
But on one morning, as soon as we were done with our breakfast, she got up and gestured for us to follow her outside.
“Come, come,” she said. She led us out to the little patio and pointed at the ridiculous little decoration on the fence. And after some pantomiming and sound effects (including the buzzing sound of little bees), we understood. This contraption collected honey.
The bees fly in, milling around the cracks and crevices. The little square in the middle is a drawer – every now and then Margit pulls it open, and inside, there is honey.
At first, I couldn’t quite believe it. But Rand’s high school German confirmed it, as did my father.
“Yeah,” my dad said, with a dismissive wave of his hand, “She was buying honey, but the bees made so much, she stopped.”
I nodded, but I could still barely fathom it.
“Sehr gut,” I said to my stepmother. And when she asked if I wanted some honey in my tea, I nodded again.
“Ja, ja. Bitte.”
Yes. Yes. Please.