The Boy Who Caught a Butterfly. (This May Make You Cry, I Did When I Wrote It)
“The boy who caught a butterfly”
by Sean McMaster
“Mommmmm!” The boy screamed over the sound of the screen door slamming. “I need a jar.”
“For what? His mother asked.
“Look , I caught a butterfly, isn’t it pretty? I want to keep it.”
“It is, very pretty, that’s a Monarch Butterfly.” She talked as she found a tupperware container that they could use “for now” until they got a proper container to use. “I didn’t think there were a lot of butterflies around here, where did you find him?”
“Up the road near where the kids play baseball”, he responded, “there’s a field and there are lots of butterflies there.”
“It sounds like something I’d love to see, can you show me where it is?”
The boy was so proud of himself when he was walking his Mom to the field, clearly he had stumbled on a little treasure in that place and maybe they were going back to get a couple more butterflies to keep his company. How pretty they would be in that jar, just for him to see everyday. “Of course we will have to get some leaves or something to put in the jar Mom, so it’s just like where they live, right?”
“That would probably be nice for… they? I thought that there was only one?”
“Yeah but I thought maybe he should have a friend too.”
When they reached the field the mother saw that her son hadn’t exaggerated that much, there really were a lot of butterflies in the field. She stopped as he put his container down to go catch another one.
“Hey before you catch another one, lets just take a minute to watch them, and see how they live in the wild.”
The boy wasn’t much for waiting for anything, but really he was just glad that she was there, and had taken so much interest in his new discovery. They both walked slowly through the tall grass trying to not scare away the butterflies as they moved. Then his mother spoke to him in a hushed tone.
“You know butterflies start out as caterpillars right?
“Of course Mom, everyone knows that!” After all he was nine years old.
“Of course,” she said, “But did you know that they only live a very short time as butterflies? Some of them only two weeks.” That, he thought, he didn’t really know.
She went on, “That’s what I think is so special about them, when they are hatched they are caterpillars and they creep and crawl to find food for months. Doing all that work to prepare for the time that they will change. Then they have to find a high place way up in a tree, to create their cocoon and wait. All the time hoping that nothing will destroy it, and hoping that they have grown enough to make it through, and change into a butterfly.”
The boy just looked at her, at this point he knew she was trying to teach him something but it was not clear to him what that might be. Before he could say anything she went on.
“Sometimes I think of you as my little butterfly. You know what i mean?” “”No”, he told her, “not really.”
“Well your young now, always learning and growing. And you will spend a long time learning and growing..” “And eating!” he exclaimed. “Yes and eating. And one day you too will change and I just know you will be as beautiful as a butterfly and you will spread your wings and fly. And all the work you did to become that butterfly will have been worth it.”
She looked at him fidgeting with the Tupperware container that he had now knelt beside. She wondered what part if any of this was really sinking in. And though, she was unsure, she went on.
” I can’t wait to see you grow up and see you change into that beautiful butterfly. And the best part is that you can be a butterfly for a long long time. Not like these guys who will only get to fly around these flowers for weeks or if they are lucky, months. Wow, they are so pretty aren’t they?”
His silence made it clear to her now that most if not all of what she was saying was sinking in. She waited. And a minute later, her caterpillar broke the silence.
“Mom…I think I should let this one go back with his friends.”
“Really? You don’t want to keep it? We can still find a jar for him at the house.”
“No, if you think about it, he only has a little time to fly and I don’t really want to take that away from him, you know?” She did.
As he lifted the lid from the container and watched the butterfly take off his mother said one more thing to him. Something that she would say to him many more times in his life. Something that until this moment only she and he knew the real meaning of. She said, “Sean, you really are my beautiful butterfly.”
That is a true story and sadly one of only a few moments like that that I would have with my Mom. She had a hard life, and fought many vices. I know that she in her later years had regrets for not always being the Mom that she could have been. And that for me, is water long under the bridge. I am the most proud of her for the butterfly that she eventually found in, herself. She did find the strength to change, and she did enjoy a time in her life where she was a great Mom, and a great Grandma.
Like the butterfly though, that was at the end of her life and far too short of a time. Seven years ago she flew away for the last time and on this day, her birthday, I think of her. And butterflies.
If she were here today I would tell her that she was wrong about butterflies. She said that they only get to fly for such a short time before die. I would tell her that while that may be true, what she didn’t realize is after that, they become Angels.
Happy Birthday Mom.