[Author’s note: In the summer of 2019, I took care of my grandkids, and we went to the Superior Public Library once or twice a week. During the summer of 2020, the pandemic and social distancing kept us at home and playing outside.]
Three grandkids, five days a week, seven hours a day, and a limited budget summed up my summer days in 2019. Anything free was good, so when the Superior Public Library hosted a free presentation about monarch butterflies, I took Clara, almost eight; Michael, six; and Evan, almost three.
The presenter discussed butterflies and their stages of life. Clara who loves nature, absorbed every word. Later, she remarked, “That was a really good presentation.” Michael listened intently, too. But Evan scampered from chair to chair. Finally, I took his hand and retreated to the Children’s Library with him.
Before the butterfly talk, Clara and her brother, Michael, spotted plastic cups lined up on the table. Each cup’s rim supported a chrysalis suspended from a stick.
“Nana, can we take one home?” Clara asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “Your mom has a lot on her plate with school and work.”
I didn’t know the presenter would be giving away flying insects. Vibrant colors and eye-catching patterns aside, a butterfly is a flying insect.
“Can we keep it at your house?” Clara is the Princess of Plan-B Solutions.
“No, what if it emerges when I’m sleeping?” I imagined the butterfly carousing through my house and dive-bombing my head in the morning while I drank coffee.
“Monarchs move slowly after they emerge,” the presenter said, “and the chrysalis will turn nearly black before the butterfly emerges, so you’ll be prepared.” The presenter wasn’t siding with me—he had cups and cups of future butterflies to pass along.
Clara looked wistful and dejected at the same time. I couldn’t tell her I was afraid to look a butterfly in the eye. It could’ve been worse—she liked spiders too. If the presentation had been about spiders, we might have been offered a spider’s egg sac.
“Okay,” I said, “we’ll keep it at my house.”
“Yay.” Clara celebrated with a double fist pump. Michael grinned.
After the presentation we took the chrysalis home, and I set it on my kitchen table. Each time Clara, Michael, and Evan came over, we checked the chrysalis for any sign of blackness.
A few weeks later, instead of greeting me with good morning, my husband said, “That butterfly flew out of its cup while I was eating breakfast. Scared the heck out of me.”
“What did you do with it?” I asked.
“I put the cup in front of it, and it walked back in the cup,” he said. “I put a piece of paper toweling over the cup.” I remembered the presenter saying a newly emerged butterfly moved slowly.
An hour later while I ate breakfast, the butterfly knocked the paper towel off the cup and flew down to the floor. I screamed. My heart thumped. I used my husband’s cup technique. The butterfly walked into the cup, which I took outside and placed on the patio table.
Fifteen minutes later, my grandkids arrived. They dashed up the side stairs and onto the deck. I went outside to greet them. The butterfly, still on the patio table, basked in the sun.
“Look,” I said, “the monarch hatched.”
Beating wings interrupted their oohs and aahs as the butterfly took flight up and over the roof of the house.
“Our butterfly waited to see you before it flew away,” I said.
Clara nodded knowingly.
“Yeah, it really did,” Michael said.
In the weeks that followed, every time Clara, Michael, Evan, and I saw a monarch butterfly in my yard, I said, “Look, it’s our butterfly.”
One day, Clara, my little naturalist, set me straight. “You know, Nana, there are more monarchs around here than just ours!”
[I orignally wrote this story in 2019 for my grandkids and included picutres of them and the butterfly with the story. I printed a copy for each them and stapled the pages together. They each enjoyed having their own “book” about our butterfly experience.]