Once, I told my daughters if we planted jellybeans they’d grow into lollipops. We planted three in early Spring, red, yellow and green. First, they were only sticks poking out of bare dirt, then small lollipops, you might say they were buds. Just in time for Easter they were in full bloom, huge sugar pinwheels!

My younger daughter was born with both asthma and a severe form of eczema. There were times her fingers would swell, crack and bleed. Stress made it worse.Twice she got septicemia. The lines would run up her leg.  The first time was because I was away from her for two weeks. The second was after the Oklahoma City bombing. I worked in Oklahoma City then and was gone until late that evening. I never thought that anyone would worry about me until I got a call from my Minnesota family. On TV my daughter had been watching the little girl being carried out of the Murrah building over and over. By the next day I was calling the doctor. For many years it was one doctor after another. There was a trip to Houston at the M.D. Anderson complex. There were bleach baths and UV lights. There were twice daily layers of medications and creams. There was wrapping her like a caterpillar in a cocoon every night. She once told me that her childhood felt like a science experiment. I felt like a mad scientist. We were told that half of children outgrow this by age four and half that don’t by age nine, half that don’t by age nine by puberty. My daughter never did, but each marker meant improvement.

I planted rue outside her bedroom window.  We would watch the Black Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs like small jelly beans, one at a time. The caterpillars started as small squiggles, ate, split their skin, ate, split their skin and ate. Sometimes we would take one with a branch of rue and put it in a jar to watch it grow. At full size it attached to the woody part of a branch, hung down, a quotation mark, and that was when we knew it would be a chrysalis the next day. Week and a half later came the last split and we had a butterfly, plump with crumpled wings. It took time and work pumping the fluid from body to wings before it could fly. This was always a time of danger. The butterflies were highly visible and helpless then.

My daughter is grown now. I have heard, that when she was in France, she stepped out on a ledge of a window at the top of the Notre Dame on a dare, seen a photo of her lying on the edge (long red hair cascading over) of a crumbling wall high above the sea, she talks of rock climbing and bungee jumping.

In the Fall it has always been the flight of the Monarchs. I have been teased during their migration, by my daughter, that I brake for butterflies. Yes, darling, I always will.


2 thoughts on “Lepidoptera

  1. redmitten says:


  2. Sherry – this was/is a poem that has never quite jelled for me. I was hoping and am using this blog partly as a way to order my thoughts in the hopes I can work through the backstory on the poems that haven’t quite come together the way they need. Seems to be helping.

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