I’m excited about the spark in this week’s writing class! A food spark gives me delicious ideas. But first, I have to take out these ten monarch caterpillar babies from the large box Elaine gave me. I’ll look at them while my grandson Kaden is sleeping. OMG, they are so tiny!
Thursday: Kaden went to day camp. Now I can get started on this writing. Maybe Thanksgiving dinner is the right topic—my mom used to bake the perfect turkey, mashed potatoes and those dreadful orange vegetables— but, wait! The milkweed is almost gone. Can those little fellas BREATHE in sealed plastic containers? I open the tops and leave them ajar, while I go out for fresh milkweed leaves next to our blackberry bushes. Ow! Ow! Thorns! But this is some nice milkweed. The guys really like it as I put a leaf in each container. There, now I can back to–darn! I have to drive to the other side of the lake to pick up Kaden. Then I can get back to writ—oh, no, it’s baseball night.
Friday: I need fresh milkweed. Does Cornell use chemical pesticides?Lots of “No Trespassing” signs. Hmmm…the line of sight is hidden by a steep garden at that house. No one will see me steal a little.
I’d better pick up Kaden after I drop this milkweed off at home….What? One caterpillar got out! I thought these guys were deaf and slow. Wait! There he is, edging towards the dog dish. Whew! That could’ve been bad. So, let me get back to the spark. I could add my mom’s funny comments after Thanksgiving dinner. Instead I fall asleep on a chair next to the caterpillars.
Saturday: Wow. Those boys are bigger. Wait! Two are in a blackish gooey mushy state. I google monarch caterpillar viruses online. EWWWW. Now I have to disinfect everything. OMG—SPIDERS! Tiny baby spiders jump out of a third plastic container. No caterpillar. I will not scream. I carry it outside. Did spiders eat this one? Elaine will be so disappointed in me.
Sunday: I skip church to go out and find milkweed. These guys are getting huge. My husband has a surprise. Rick! Thank you for cleaning up that old aquarium. I’m pretty sure they’re too big to eat each other now. Kaden and I create a paradise of milkweed and add branches for enrichment activities.
Kaden says we should name them. Hercules is the hungriest, biggest caterpillar. Persephone is long and thin, shy about eating in public. Barbie and Gidget like to dress in the latest leaves. Tubby is, well… Tubby. Marco Polo eats leaves like he’s marching across Central Asia. Ken is standoffish. But if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that like Barbie’s Ken, he doesn’t have the interest or equipment. Kaden’s friends come over. I have to monitor the pool. STOP SHOOTING EACH OTHER WITH WATER GUNS. They aim and fire at me. I just KNOW I can put the assignment together once he goes to camp tomorrow.
Monday: I’ve got a draft done, but I have to pick some milkweed. NO!! Ken is out of the aquarium! I look everywhere. I cannot find Ken. Kaden just renamed him Ben-Ten Ken. The phone rings. Let me call back. Something is happening. Hercules is very still on the highest branch. NO sign of Ben-Ten Ken. Even after I sweep the floor and dump out the garbage. I remember to pick up Kaden.
Tuesday: Several gravitated to the top branches and near the aquarium roof. They aren’t eating. Rick, honey? Can you come home early? Oh, crap. The weather looks awful. Baseball is cancelled. Kaden points to a super-cellish group of clouds. Is that a tornado? Emergency Broadcast Alert for Storm Warning: Hail, wind, heavy rain. Stuck inside, Kaden shouts Here’s BEN-TEN KEN!! His sharp eyes found him UNDER the dining table, motionless, glued to the underside. It could be worse. Kaden, let’s see what happens.
Wednesday: This morning I wake up and groan. I have nothing for writing class. I walk over to the table where Ben-Ten Ken was hanging. Underneath is one perfect, defiant, light green chrysalis. On the plastic aquarium roof, having ignored the branches, four beautiful green chrysalides dangle. Barbie and Gidget are still making up their minds to change their outfits forever. They are all beautiful.
Damn you, Elaine Mansfield!
Bless you, Elaine Mansfield!
With joyful thanks to Kaden and his YaYa Melody Smith for sharing their adventure. All’s well that end’s well. Photos of Kaden and the Monarch were taken by Melody. Thanks for being willing, Kaden. Along with sharing monarch miracles with Kaden, I had fun releasing butterflies with another friend’s granddaughter. What playful experiences do you share with kids? For my first post about raising Monarchs in 2017, see Mothering Monarchs, Mothering My Soul. For a post about mythology and butterflies, see Bees, Butterflies, and Blessings: Cycles of Nature and Grief.