It started with a death, but this story has a happy ending.
We were sitting in our yard one sunny day when a yellow and black swallowtail butterfly landed on our picnic table then suddenly died with its wings spread wide open. Wow, we thought. Even in its afterlife, the creature was so beautiful. Hoping to preserve it, my mother went into our home then returned with a large straw hat that had been adorned with a beautiful dried flower arrangement. She placed the butterfly on top of the flowers. We hoped it would stay.
It did. And the hat hung on our living-room wall with our pretty little reminder.
Later that season, I was finishing up playing in the yard. About to come inside and close our front door, the corner of my eye caught a flash of bright green in the doorway. I called out to my mom and she came running to see what was wrong. I had never seen this type of bug before, even though she told me it was a caterpillar. It was plump and hairless and very very green with a couple of white and black spots on its back.
“What should we do?” She told me to get a small stick and said we’d put it in an unsealed jar. Great idea. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
The very next day, I went to look at our plumpy green friend and it had changed dramatically. I called out to my mom and she was just as amazed as I was, to see that it had turned into something that quite resembled the stick. She called it a cocoon. I asked her what we should do now? She said to leave it be.
I don’t remember how many weeks it took, but I checked on that stick every day. One magical day, I noticed a little circle forming on the cocoon. My mom said that we should take the jar outside, so we sat at the picnic table and watched. Eventually, she took the stick out of the jar and put it on my hand, telling me to keep very still. It took awhile, but we watched in amazement as a sopping wet swallowtail butterfly emerged from the cocoon and landed on my hand.
It tickled. My mom reminded me to keep very still. It’s wings are too wet to fly.
Eventually, the butterfly started to extend its wings slightly; slowly exposing them to air, letting them dry out. Finally, the black and yellow wings spread fully and the butterfly took off and fluttered off into the world.
I feel very lucky to have had this experience.