It was late spring, and my young daughter, Sheridan, and I decided to plan some special mother-daughter activities to share. With a little trepidation, I allowed her to adopt a caterpillar at a local birdseed store as one way to make a memory.
Sheridan, notorious for collecting crawling critters guaranteed to make my skin crawl, brought home her undulating invertebrate in a covered plastic cup. Gingerly placing the striped caterpillar she’d dubbed Sunrise in a darkened corner of our kitchen, Sheridan promised to feed her, tend her, and keep her at a respectable distance from me. Though never fond of things that creep, I was still fascinated by the assurance that this infinitesimal insect would soon morph into a big, beautiful butterfly. I could hardly wait to share this experience with my daughter.
Daily I watched as Sheridan emptied the cup of the mostly-eaten milkweed leaves she had inserted the night before, careful not to cast away her insect gourmand in the process. I was surprised at the creature’s ravenous appetite, and even more astounded by its catapulting growth. Each day Sunrise seemed to triple her girth and length. To accommodate her weight gain, on several occasions she shed her skin like a too-tight pair of panty-hose, shimmying out of it one wiggle at a time.
One momentous morning, Sunrise crawled to the lid of the cup, tenaciously attached herself, and later shed her skin one last time. And then, in the stillness of that magical moment, she revealed a chrysalis of shimmering green and unseen dreams . . . and . . . she waited . . .
And so did we . . .
Over the ensuing weeks, Sheridan and I shared our hopes for the tiny tenant residing inside the chrysalis. And in the process, Sheridan tentatively began sharing her own hopes and dreams with me as she shimmied out of her childhood one wobbly wiggle at a time—encouraged by the promise of Sunrise’s metamorphosis.
Then one day, in the fullness of time, in the fullness of a promise realized, we beheld a brilliant butterfly, her orange-and-black stained-glass wings trembling inside the cup. We, too, trembled at her breathtaking beauty and at the thought of letting her go. Mustering our courage, we took Sunrise to the garden to free her, praying she’d linger among the lilacs yet awhile. She circled above the purple petals then suddenly flew to the tree tops. Alighting for just an instant, she fluttered her wings like little rays of sunshine flashing on black branches. Then, she ascended higher still and finally disappeared from our sight.
Sheridan and I knew that we could never replace Sunrise, but we decided to adopt a new caterpillar every spring and raise it together. And I promised myself that I would nurture my own little butterfly whose childhood was flitting away with great speed—and that one day I would love her enough to let her take wing, just as we had done for Sunrise.
Lynn D. Morrissey
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