When I'm not juggling the array of things the family likes to toss at me, I sometimes don my PR maven hat and write a release for my daughter's preschool. The last week we've been working on something to give the interested local TV station about the school's annual butterfly release project. Each year the 400-ish students watch roughly 70 caterpillars morph into butterflies. Then, on a day dedicated to spring and flying things, the classes take turns letting their multi-colored captives take flight with a release organized in one of the property's flower gardens.
Two years ago I rooted the symbolic celebration in the school's renovated building and new addition. This year the butterflies symbolize growth and milestones - the school's newly minted (or soon to be minted) 5 year olds leaving preschool behind as they begin their kindergarten journey. Not just them! Wait! This year's crop of 3 year olds have completed that milestone of "first year of school!" and now pick up the mantel of "big kids in the building." Symbolic joy all around.
This morning I polished the release one more time, got the big smiling nod of approval from the director and considered the project complete. The boy and I dropped Meg off in her classroom, of course, taking time check on the caterpillars in her classroom and admire how quickly very hungry caterpillars can grow. (And imagine! They've done it all without eating through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, AND one slice of watermelon!! I wonder if Eric Carle knows?)
It wasn't until later this afternoon that the words I had written really struck home - and it came in the very same symbol.
Megan was piecing together puzzles on one of her favorite web sites. I had been called over to admire her latest completion. Just to our right, on the same table the monitor and keyboard sat on, was our very own butterfly habitat. It had been a Christmas gift to me from Logan. It was something he knew we'd enjoy together based on our summers of hunting for little 'capperpillars' (as the kids have each called them at one time or another) to keep in our little bug box until they emerged with wings. Earlier in the day we'd noticed something different about our 10 little chrysalises. Three of them were empty and brown mottled winged butterflies clung to the netting drying their new wings.
My three year old was ignoring her new pets - the puzzle was demanding her attention. I heard rustling. It was either one of the flying things fluttering around (which we hadn't really yet witnessed) or it was another hatchling. The movement caught my eye. A butterfly emerging. Pulling itself out of the cocoon that had held it captive for 10 days.
It's wings were folded up and damp. It took steps away from it's former home and shuddered. Each pulse seemed to add more volume to it's wings until it appeared much like it's friends currently hanging around the netted tower.
I had been able to catch my breath long enough to get Megan's attention. She sat next to me, face pressed to the netting watching the process (and wings) unfold. "He's so beautiful," she whispered, already deciding every "painted lady" in the place was a boy.
An hour later I was standing outside and silently thanking the clouds for holding their rain in during "bus stop" time. Meg stood at the front door as I waited at the base of the driveway for the bus to pull to a stop. As soon as I returned with her brother, she gave him the most recent butterfly report. He ran to the porch to see for himself. He spent the next several hours, nose to netting, looking for clues that another one was about to emerge. So far they haven't.
Just before we got the bedtime routine rolling, they checked in with the butterflies one more time. It was then, watching my almost-done-with Kindergartner and my soon-to-finish-her-first-year preschooler, that the words of the release I had written came flooding back to me.
We're going to release our new friends on Sunday. Somehow it seems only fitting that these symbols of new milestones spread their wings and leave their habitat on Mother's Day. Although my own little caterpillars aren't about to make that leap, quite yet, they're growing fast and in the grand scheme...it won't be long.