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Friday, November 21, 2008

The Little Butterfly That Could

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 . . .

22 comments:

Emily Anne Leyland ( Art-n-Sewl) said...

Awww- that was really touching! I had little tears in my eyes. You're such a softie ;)That's a good thing in my opinion.

Funny Farmer said...

(sigh) Ain't that life? Your story didn't make me cry. Thinking about how your story is a metaphor for life did.

Word verifier says: greavin

'nuff said.

Kristina P. said...

OK, I did not cry. But I thought about it. This story is too sweet for words. Or not, I guess, since you put it into words. You know what I'm saying!

Lobbie said...

I am made of happy,hopeful mush after reading this.

Amanda said...

what beautiful butterflies! we've not enjoyed your success. We've killed two caterpillars in the last year...wish we had your butterfly thumb :)

Heidi Ashworth said...

Sweet and funny and sassy too! You got it all, sister! But do you really have twins? Really? Are they identical? Like me and my twin?

SWIRL said...

Aw- now I feel awful calling you a hermit at Funny Farmers site these last few days.. when really you were tending and nursing a poor baby butterfly.

sweet story crash!

I am LoW said...

Such a sweet story!

Now I want a caterpillar! :-D

Cute cute story, b/c it was told so well.

Melanie J said...

I love this story!

I hate being capitalized against my will.

Anjeny said...

Awww...that was sooo sweet, I wanted to go out and find me a caterpillar so I can watch it turn into a butterfly and encourage it to fly away then I remembered that I have a two-year old fluttering around in my living room needing my attention to encourage it to fly fly away...ok I know, that doesn't make sense.
I love your posts though, I can see you truly are an English teacher...who else can tell a butterfly story like that?

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Okay, FIRST. Why is everyone suddenly CAPITALIZED? Especially you, SWIRL, who is in FULL CAPS.

Does that mean you all respect me more now that I'm a butterfly whisperer?

Second, thanks for all the awww's and the sighs. I needed that today.

YES, Heidi I do have twins, but they're not identical like yours. Although I'm pretty sure you don't have a twin, more a backwards YOU. I would call her your dramatic foil if I were an English teacher.

Anjeny, welcome! Everyone welcome Anjeny and check out her brand new blog. She's an island rambler, which is exactly what I've been saying for year . . . the bloggasphere needs more island ramblers. I'm glad the butterfly story could remind you about your two year old. It would be easy to forget when you have 7 kids. (She looks like she has NO kids. Her face is 16 years old, fo' real! And so is her humor.)

And Welcome Lobbie with a capital L. I gotta check you out!

Hi, Sewl. I still miss you!

verifier says: froulifu. frou lifu. A Glam Chinese bike racer.

(p.s. Have you guys ever noticed how the verifier word looks super cewler and meaningful until you actually type it?

OldBoatGuy said...

That is awsome and so profound!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Alas, Crash, I do have an identical twin. Her name is Holly. See Marivic_Grumpy Angels comment on that post as proof--she lives a few doors down from Holly--their sons are best friends. The truth is, I would be the dramatic foil compared to her. She would shudder at the thought of being called dramatic. She is the soul of discretion. AND she doesn't read my blog. I think that is stinky of her but she really doesn't like me too much so a blog post a day would be like gagging down castor oil on a regular basis for her. So, I guess I get it. I don't cry about it. Anymore. Much. (shhhh--don't tell Marivic because she might tell Holly and then I will be busted big time!)

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Wow Heidi. What's not to like? But that photo wasn't really the two of you was it? It was just two of YOU, right? Cause if so you really are IDENTICAL,yet backwards. I feel bad she doesn't read your blog. That stinks. And your blog is nothing like castor oil. Is she going to read your novel? That's the question.

david santos said...

Well, well, well!
Beautiful posting!!! I love your imagination! Congratulations!!!
Have a nice Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jami said...

That's beautiful, dudette. Beautiful.

Mariko said...

Wow, I just have to ask. Is it that time of the month? We've had some mushiness around here lately.
Not saying that I didn't love the post. Loved it. Completely. (Didn't cry-- remember, I just pretend to cry at these things.)
I had no idea that the butterfly would be deformed if it got detached. Physically handicapped I mean.

Anjeny said...

Thanks crash for the welcome and intro..:)

Heidi Ashworth said...

Okay, here I am responding and at risk that you won't see it because this post is so yesterday's news BUT we recently had a little spat that came out of nowhere and I honestly think she subconcioulsy contrived it so she doesn't have to read my book. It is very difficult to have a twin. You share everything, even the womb, and then if you look alike (and, yes, the pics were both of me but only because I have been told NOT to put pics of her on my blog) and think alike (we used to finish each other's sentences) and you open birthday presents on the same day, having your twin "have" something (even teeny-weeny minimal success) that you don't have just doesn't compute. It just feels wrong. She is the one who got married first, had a baby first, bought a house first, then a bigger house than I will ever own, etc. etc so I am plenty used to the feeling--but this is the first time since we were kids (I walked first, I talked first, I had an easier time making friends, I had a boyfriend first)that she has had to stand by and watch me get something she isn't getting--attention for my talents--hey, we all want that, right? I understand why she feels that way but she doesn't understand any of it. In her eyes I'm just being obnoxious. Also, anything any of us do that garners attention in my family is kind of looked at askance because, when the eight of us kids were young, we pretty much had to be obnoxious in order to get what we needed--and so it just rubs in the old wounds. My older sisters are happy for me and read my blog--but the ones around my age are having a harder time. Family dynamics are crazy! One day I am going to write a series of romances and use my sisters as the models for the heroines complete with all of the jealousies and competition and personalities rubbing each other the wrong way--yep, that would be fun. But I would have to write under an alias. ;)
cryos: is that some kind of hispanic term for crying? Maybe we should ask David.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Okay, so now the word is waycharo.

I swear there is a real person in my computer reading what I write and posting the appropriate twisted word.

Aunty Em said...

Such a great story!

I love the part about the twins (the butterfly was good too), but I could totally relate to the twins part because I have some too!

Girl/Boy ones.

Great blog.... I'll be back.

Mom O' Nine said...

I found this post and read it, as we too, have a handicapped butterfly. Ours seems in worse shape that yours. She really can't fly...yet. She is getting plenty of love, though. It is kind of interesting to find out how much our family loves our butterfly. Anyone that comes in, immediately goes over and gives her a drink of sugar water and a flying lesson.