By: Brandy Black
A couple weeks ago Susan and Sophia came home from the children’s museum in Pasadena “Kidspace” with a caterpillar. It was in a tiny container with food on the bottom. Sophia ran around the house yelling “caterpillar, caterpillar” while Susan handed me the directions and explained that we were going to take care of it until it became a butterfly.
I studied the phases of growth very intently and explained to Sophia along the way- “the caterpillar will eat all of its food until it gets big and fat, then it will crawl up to the top of the container, hang vertically and build a cocoon around itself, we will wait and then build a house for it out of a shoe box, transfer him and watch from our homemade window until he becomes a butterfly.”
Each day we would carefully stare at the container until one day he hung in his cocoon, we got our shoe box and decorated it with a sunshine and leaves and flowers on one side, a couch and table with a window on the other side, a moon and stars on the another side and polka dots on the final side- design by Sophia. When he was ready, we moved our sweet, cocooned caterpillar into his new home. We waited for quite a few days until one morning I peeked through the window and the cocoon was broken, I hollered for everyone to come and see and we gathered around the box with the flashlight and there we found our beautiful butterfly. It was amazing to watch it form before our eyes. Sophia now ran around the house yelling “butterfly, butterfly”.
I imagined this being a spring tradition for our family, to watch the life and growth of a butterfly as we enter into a new blossoming season.
We fed it sugar water as instructed and a couple days later it was time for our release ceremony. We all went out to the backyard and opened the box and watched the butterfly, it flapped its wings twice and stopped. Susan carefully placed a stick by its body and the butterfly hopped on and she held it in the air, the butterfly flew off the twig only to tumble gracefully to the ground. He gathered himself and began flapping again but this time going nowhere.
“Maybe it’s not time yet,” Susan said.
I rummaged through the instructions. “It says the butterfly can’t stay in the box longer then 4 days and it’s been 3.”
“Let’s give it another day,” Susan said, placing Dumbo (yes that is our name for him) back in the box.
The next day we all went into the backyard and prepared for the final release.
“Goodbye butterfly” I said.
“Goodbye butterfly” Susan said.
“Bye butterfly!” Sophia yelled.
It went nowhere, it did nothing. Susan coaxed him on the stick and this time placed him in the tree, he flapped but didn’t fly. We debated keeping him in the box for another day but opted to follow the instructions we were given.
“We’ll check on him,” I explain to Sophia who at this point doesn’t care about Dumbo any more.
At dusk I ask Susan about the butterfly and she says, “Oh I don’t know, he’s gone.”
“Oh good” I say, relieved that he’s not still stuck in the tree.
Then, Susan looks at me awkwardly and looks down at Sophia and back up at me.
“I found a wing” she says, subtly.
I gasp. “What?” feeling tears well up in my eyes.
“Did Sophia see anything?” I say, trying to remain collected.
“Yes” she says laughing uncomfortably.
“Why are you laughing?” I say as tears begin to stream down my face.
“I don’t know, it’s not funny, I don’t know what to say.”
“I don’t know what I did wrong, I did everything, I followed the instructions” I say, sobbing. “I just don’t know what happened, I can’t believe it…I killed him” I whisper.
Sophia all the while was playing with her toys oblivious to our conversation. I sat crying for a few minutes until Sophia noticed that mama was sad, she came and hugged me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and went on with the night as if nothing had happened.
We lost a butterfly this week and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to raise one again.
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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