This week I discovered I'm a butterfly whisperer.
It's a sweet story if you have the stomach for it. Maybe the sweetest butterfly story ever told, because it's 100% true, without a single embellishment.
It's a story that might make Pat and Lisa cry because they're tender that way. But don't feel bad if like my husband and daughter you giggle and shake your head and say "you are one strange dummy." It won't hurt my feelings.
This story began without any emotional attachment. It was simply a story about life and about ethical dilemmas and choices and hope and faith, but not about butterflies. The butterflies were incidental to the story. They were just there to act out the life lesson.
But as soon as I shed real tears over a real butterfly the story became smaller (as opposed to larger) than life. The story became about the butterfly. The little butterfly that could.
Last week my son brought 2 caterpillars home and placed them in a plastic bucket with a whole lotta love (and a whole lotta leaves).
I had been through this before so I knew the beginning, the middle and the ending to this predictable caterpillar-crawls-around-house-before-cocooning-himself-then-emerging-as-a-butterfly-who-can't-stop-banging-his-head-against-the-sliding-glass-door story.
But then something unpredictable happened. My son accidentally detached the dangling cacoon from it's original dangling location.
Coincidentally, my daughter had just learned about this very thing at church and she immediately informed my son that his butterfly was going to be deformed!
"If a butterfly is taken from it's original dangling location he will not grow properly. He will be handicapped. He won't be able to fly."
This alarmed my son. "I DON'T want a deformed butterfly! I don't want a handicapped butterfly either. I don't want a butterfly that can't fly," he declared. "We have to get rid of it!"
Enter ethical dilemma.
Without going into detail about the butterfly abortion laws in Hawaii, I casually said,"we probably shouldn't get rid of it just because it MIGHT be deformed."
My daughter was right and the butterfly was deformed. (In a beautiful sort of way) She came out with curly wings.
"I told you!" my son kept saying.
Would she be able to fly? We didn't know, but we could see that, despite her handicap, that deformed butterfly had sass.
I took both butterflies outside and deposited them on my bogainvillea so they could be free. But there they sat, hour after hour after hour, and no matter how I coaxed and prodded and pushed, they wouldn't fly.
So I brought them in out of the wind and rain and placed them on my fake plastic plant for the night.
I guess old habits die hard, even for butterflies, because in the morning they were both just dangling there like a cocoon.
"Fly! Be Free!" I told them as I opened the sliding glass door. And the healthy one did.
I perched the sassy handicapped one on my plumria tree. And there she sat hour after hour after hour.
So I worked with her--did a little physical therapy--and gave her a little encouragement, but she would simply flutter to the grass and stay put.
By nightfall she was back on the fake plastic plant.
Then my son and I noticed that whenever we carried her around on our finger she would stretch her wings and flap them up and down slowly (at first). But sometimes they would speed up and almost vibrate.
We said all kinds of crazy things to her like, You go girl! (and other things too that made my teenager raise her eyebrows and my tweener say, "HEY, you never talk to us like that.")
Soon she was flying back and forth between my twins and I and it wasn't long before she flew all the way across the room before dropping in exhaustion.
My heart immediately sent out a warning to my head. Just a silly butterfly, don't go getting all slushy.
But I couldn't help it. Maybe it was the way those little handicapped butterfly legs would reach for me everytime I extended my finger. (Gosh, it's been a while since I've had a baby, hasn't it!)
Or maybe it was the way she played along when we put her on the U.S.S. Constitution and said, "You're FLYING!"
But I woke up the next morning and the first thing I thought of was my butterfly.
My twins and I raced downstairs to play with her (probably because we don't have a puppy (or a baby)).
What a cute butterfly fluttering back and forth between us and giving us butterfly kisses.
After the kids went off to school I took her outside for some fresh air and perched her on a low vine next to my sliding glass door. Every so often I would peek out and see her slowly flapping her wings and I would smile.
But later I went out and she was gone. I searched through the grass and the flowers, but she was higher than that!
She was perched on the plumeria tree where she had spent the previous day. My eyes spontaneously flooded with happy tears. "You did it!" I said out loud. "You flew! On your own!"
(And then I looked around to make sure no one from the hood had seen me talking to a tree.)
"Don't leave without saying goodbye," I whispered before returning to the house.
Within minutes I looked back out and she was gone.
I searched again, the grass, the flowers, the trees . . . I could feel the tears welling again. This time they were happy/sad tears. She was gone.
But she wasn't. Not yet. She was waiting for the dramatic exit. She was too sweet and sassy to simply disappear without a perfect story-book/chic-flick butterfly farewell.
She wanted to jerk some tears for real, not just a-little-dab-will-do-ya tears, but a-tissue-full-of-tears that would make me double check to see if there was an invisible red thread trailing from her curly little wings as she swirled around me a few times before flying up, up, and away over my back fence and into the big wide world.
Tears that would make me return whistfully to the window over and over again all day . . . just in case . . .