This isn't the beautiful miracle of nature I expected it to be.
Day 4 of "Safer at Home," I panicked and bought a cup of caterpillars online. You see, I could see already that we were going to miss the Kidspace Butterfly Festival this year...and we have these beautiful, matching butterfly capes to show off and I figured it would be a lot of entertainment for the kids to see them transform and also that I would get to tell people on facebook that we did "science" and to take out my fancy camera and get some sun-kissed photos of those capes, perhaps use the bougainvillea in the yard as a backdrop. I tell myself that this is because I want to spread and share the light and joy that my kids are but it's probably also a little to make Kell jealous and show Jodie that I'm a good mom and to snidely let Val know that she's not the only one who has a gifted child and to keep up with Ashley.
Now, I look at the caterpillars, clutching on to the top of the cup, turned upside-down as the world around them is, too. They turn upside-down like this to make the big change. I spot one as she wriggles and bucks, slowly encasing herself from the bottom up. It's a violent thing to watch. She twitches while the others fight one another for space. A few fall and have to crawl back up. It turns my stomach to watch. Makes my skin crawl. This isn't the beautiful miracle of nature I expected it to be. It's ...painful.
It's a violent thing to watch.
In the past, when we bought caterpillars online, we left them on the shelf in my daughter's room and would wake up to delight in how much they changed overnight, then run off to wherever and forget about them for the rest of the day.
But now, they sit in the dining room on a counter by the dog treats and we go back to them more frequently and I pretend to marvel at how big they got and how cool it is to watch them transform while I secretly choke down the anxiety I feel about how we are running out of time with them. They won't be here to entertain us soon. They'll fly off and leave us here alone in our own "Safe at Home" cocoon.
I force myself to watch the second one as she transforms. I listened to a podcast once about what happens inside the chrysalis. They become a kind of... goo. If you cut one open, the caterpillar is gone, liquidated. And now, on Day 21 of social distancing, without the tools of motherhood I have so often used to pass this longest shortest time together: playdates and grandparents and festivals and parades... I, too, am goo. Cocooned in this house, cocooned in the news, cocooned in your Instagram stories and in my paralyzing fear that I am nothing but ordinary. I am twitching. Trying to rearrange the parts of me that crawl on the ground in the hopes that I will be able to fly free of the weight of envy and comparison someday.
02 APRIL 2020