In the Keeping

The South is a place where history matters, even to those who didn’t necessarily share in the specific history they have discovered later. Sometimes, our narratives are remembered, but other times, they must be assumed, reasoned out, or even manufactured from fragments. This short essay, comments on finding forgotten items, which led the author first to wonder why they were kept, then to find value in them.

In the Keeping
by C. Bee

I was repairing an old farmhouse in central North Carolina. There were stories to uncover there: a social security card found in the studs of a wall I tore down, a Timex watch repair tag, a cardboard ring box with an obituary hide under the cotton padding.

Four outbuildings were all in need of drastic repairs, and two large dumpsters were filled with items saved bay farmers who threw little away. But stories peeked out of those old sheds too. In the shed closest to the house, I pulled out worn tractor parts, rusted tools, a lard can full of clothespins, canning jars and other jars, mule shoes, two stained wooden paddles for stirring in a large pot, and so much more. But in the very back corner, as if hidden like a sweet and private memory, was a small faded cooler filled with beach sand. The years had guarded it as if there was a sacred shared experience. The sand was dry and soft and white and proud in a way sand can be because it knows it’s a part of something so big that nothing can refute it.

When I finally fixed the wood-burning stove, I put the sand in the bottom to diffuse the heat. As I scooped cup after cup into he stove, I came at last to something hard – a tiny perfectly curved shell. Tie and water had eaten away at it leaving a smooth skeletal remains which looked, in secret, like a ring one might wear, a promise of time spent together in the protection of sand and sun. Perhaps the shell-ring was a reminder that there is more than the everyday and same people who, for all their best intentions, have no idea of depth and hurt and joy and the realization that to stare out of a kitchen window above a sink full of dishes is the same as standing on a beach with the ocean licking at dog chewed flipflops.  Which is why I kept the shell.


Bee holds an MA in professional writing, an MFA in creative writing, and is certified to teach middle school and high school. They have published a book on beekeeping (A.I. Root Company), and have been published by various magazines for short stories and essays. They have been on NPR’s This I Believe, and enjoy personal narrative live storytelling. They have been on stage on The Cold River Radio, Sound Bites in Brunswick Maine, and other stages featuring crafted, live storytelling. Bee is currently working on a book of personal stories and essays about beekeeping in the South.

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