Where bees and angels reside!
Posted in , Nov 11, 2010
I’ve had a parade of wonderful guests at the Honey House—my turn-of-the-century bed-and-breakfast—but my granddaughter would always be the most important.
In fall 2004, seven-year-old Shelby came to live with us while her father’s unit was in Iraq. We became fast friends, lounging outside, hidden in our grove of palm trees, reading about Winnie the Pooh’s adventures in the 100 Acre Wood.
It was a frightening time. You couldn’t turn on the news without hearing about record numbers of US fatalities, and my son was on the front lines with the First Cavalry!
I could see the worry in Shelby’s eyes that first day she walked in the door—even though she put up a brave front just like me. I knew she would be afraid sometimes. Especially in the middle of the night.
If only I could think of something that might comfort her when I’m not there, I thought as I carried her suitcase inside. Then it hit me: Shelby could sleep in the Angel Room! After all, it had already ushered the original owner’s six children into the world as a birthing room and after that a nursery.
The Angel Room had been home to childhood wonder from the beginning. There was a sense of peace and goodness in it, like angels had been stationed there. At least that’s what our guests told me.
When I first stepped into the room it was a disaster, just like the rest of the house. But all it needed was a few collectibles, new wallpaper and a good scrubbing to make it heavenly again.
Soon guests were requesting the Angel Room and friends were sending me more angels. “This is a very special room,” I told Shelby as I set the suitcase down inside the door. “So special angels want to share it too.” Shelby looked around with wide eyes. Lord, let her feel safe here, I thought.
Shelby had slept in the room for a couple weeks when I got a call from her second-grade teacher. “Today we read Monsters Under the Bed,” she started. I hoped Shelby hadn’t been frightened.
“I asked the children if any of them had monsters under their beds,” the teacher went on. “Shelby raised her hand. ‘I don’t have monsters under my bed,’ she said. ‘I have angels.’”
I hung up the phone confident that Shelby had found the angels of Honey House. The same angels that led me to the place years ago.
What other explanation could there be for why a middle-aged couple would buy a house desperately in need of condemnation with the idea of turning it into a bed-and-breakfast?
We moved to Phoenix from Texas in late 1989 for my husband Larry’s job. We were renting a house. The moving boxes had long been unpacked. Life was pretty much back to normal.
Then a friend called: “You’ve got to see this house.” At first I couldn’t find it through the tangle of trees, weeds and vines. Then I spied something—something that had once resembled a house.
It looked like it still had its original paint job, circa 1895. And the place seemed to sag in all different directions. “Is that it?” I said.
“Omigosh, no. Don’t look at the house,” my friend said. “Look at what it could be. Imagine a lush pathway leading up to your beautiful, historic dream house.”
I took another glance at the tangle of weeds and decaying siding, squinting to see this alleged beauty. I can’t really explain it, but I fell in love.
It was our accountant who suggested we turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. “You’ll be putting money into that house with both fists,” she said. “You’ll need the tax break.”
“What’s a bed-and-breakfast?” Larry had asked. Not exactly a question to inspire confidence.
Nevertheless, we moved into the house in February 1991. Larry and I hacked through weeds with machetes just to get to the front door. By summer I was cursing the day I’d ever imagined that pathway.
One July day in particular the temperature soared past 110 degrees. I sat in a small patch of grass I’d cleared, looking at the jungle of weeds around me. Was it tears or sweat falling from my face?
Every day I had chopped vines or scraped moldy wallpaper or scrubbed grime from the floors. But it seemed as if I’d gotten nowhere. We were pouring our retirement money into this pit with no end in sight. What were we doing here?
I thought about the Grant family that had built the house. They had moved to Arizona from Utah in a wagon. Like me, they had set out on a journey in faith, not knowing what the future would bring.
For their first several years they had lived in a tent. They persevered through trials much rougher than mine, and the result had been this jewel of a house—if I could ever find it.
Maybe the angels who helped the Grants would help us too.
I picked up the machete and began hacking some more weeds. And the next day I did some more. Finally, as fall arrived, signs of the grande dame’s former beauty began to show, and Larry and I—still not really knowing what we were doing—opened the Honey House for business.
Every fall, with its memories of that first crazy opening weekend, is a special season for me.
But with Shelby’s extended visit more than a dozen years later, she and I were determined to create our own fall memories. One night we left the dining room and for an after-dinner stroll walked through the gardens.
“What kind of tree is that?” Shelby asked, craning her neck to see the upper branches.
“Eucalyptus,” I said. “And that one with the bees is a carob tree.”
From a distance we watched the bees busily flying in and out of their hive. Somehow they always reminded me of angels. Both, after all, have the never-ending job of tending to God’s creation.
I told Shelby that Mr. Grant had become an avid beekeeper in his years at Honey House. He even taught beekeeping and the principles of pollination to area farmers. At one time the property was home to more than 5,000 hives. That’s why we called our B&B the Honey House.
As I tucked Shelby into bed that night I looked around the Angel Room and thought about how far Larry and I had come. Every day God gave us the chance to touch a stranger’s life, and every day the joy I receive in return far exceeds anything I can offer.
Now I could share that joy with my granddaughter. Honey House had become a successful bed-and-breakfast. But when Shelby moved in it became something more: a home to a little girl when she needed it most.
By the next fall, when Shelby’s dad returned from Iraq to pick her up, I couldn’t believe a whole year had passed.
Soon a string of new guests would be staying in the Angel Room. They would move in and out, much like the swarm of bees at the hive, all of them angels, and all of them welcome at the Honey House.