Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chasing Butterflies

I'm writing about butterflies today. They have flown in and flocked - do they flock? - with their tittering, tickling wings all around in my skull. These things must be done: the butterflies released into the wild to be pinned down and examined. Don't touch their wings too much, though, or the feathers all fall off. Butterfly feathers have got to be a magic ingredient for a potion of some sort.

Here is what's happening: I have been celebrating things for weeks. Weeks, I tell you. My birthday, Halloween, and my son's birthday. All wrapped up in costumes and chocolate and a little too much fun. The celebrating continues through the end of the week with friends for dinner, premature Thanksgiving with out-of-towners, game night and bowling. Yes, bowling. You see, my son is suddenly enamored of the idea of wearing someone else's shoes and throwing a heavy ball across the room. So the only sensible thing to do is to invite other small children to gather and join us in this ritual to celebrate his seventh turn around the sun.

I try so hard not to be weepy and nostalgic about what my babies are becoming. Forward progress is inevitable and preferable. This small boy who stole my heart away is now suddenly seven and it seems I was only just last week so full of him in my belly and sick with fear of the kind of mother I would be to a son. He, of course, has been son to the mother and I didn't have to worry so much ahead of time.

He came quickly and easily compared to his warrior sister and I was laughing with relief when they put that little dark head on my chest. Right there in the front - just left of center - a whorl of black hair, one of many cowlicks that have cast his hair into rakish disarray since birth. I touched that silky little whirlpool and traced a line down over long, dark lashes to the cleft in his chin that he inherited from greatness. I tried the words out in my mouth, "My son." He was nameless for a few hours while my husband and I took turns holding him, looking into his black eyes and asking over and over: who are you?

And now we're going bowling. This is the way it goes. I know in what will seem like a week or two, I will stop and wonder where is the seven-year-old who still twines his hands in my hair when he talks to me; who sits beside me in church and reaches his arm up, beyond his own comfort, to put it around my shoulders like he sees his Daddy do. I will wonder where all of the Legos went as he trades his cars of plastic bricks for actual keys and gas money. I will remind him that he loved me once, queen of all the women to him, and he called me Awesome. Doubtless he will blush and bat those long and troublesome eyelashes and I will see the little boy that I hold now. And I will let him go.

It all slips away a minute at a time and these are some of the butterflies I am chasing as I write this morning. The chain of tiny momentous events that make a life. I am letting them flutter around, allowing
the ephemeral for a few precious minutes before I tackle the concrete tasks of my busy day. This sounds like I am sad, and I'm sure there is some sadness there. For my most part, though, I am merely an observer. I don't want to crush those little butterfly feathers.

Yesterday he sat and intently peered through a catalog of overpriced toys, highlighting in orange the things that he'd like to save up for but secretly hopes we'll just buy for him. "There's a butterfly nursery in here, Mom," he has a big voice, a resonance inherited from the same place he got his beautiful, dented chin. "Look! You can order the chrysalis and then watch them emerge. We can fill the house with Monarchs!" The small vestiges of his lisp from toddlerhood cling to the word "chrysalis" and I laugh. "Do you want a house full of butterflies?" He considers, head cocked and finger to his cheek in a cartoonish imitation of thought. "Well, yeah!" Some real thought follows. "Maybe just for a little while, though. They need to live outside. We could release them when they're ready and then they can migrate." And with that, he's off: verbally wandering down a trail of the migration habits of Monarch butterflies and on to pigeons and they have magnets in their brains and what if I did, that would be awesome! and so on...

I'm off, too. Watching the butterflies disappear on a future horizon. 


  1. It all goes way too fast. You know the secret - - treasure every moment, every butterfly . . .

    1. Judy! Welcome back, darling! I was getting worried about you.

  2. You always write the most lovely posts about your monkeys. Happy Birthday to your little man.

  3. Oh honey, I know. I know. We're all in this together. Happy birthday to your boy. Happy birthing day to you.

  4. Seven is a sweet, sweet age for a little boy.

  5. Happy Birthday little dude! Many blessings to you.

  6. Beautiful as always. I have watched four seven-year-olds morph with alarming speed into full-fledged(ish) adults and, for my part, the observer position has served me pretty well--or at least (mostly) kept me from hiding in my room weeping all day about how quickly it's all flown by.


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