Monday, November 11, 2013

From the Vault: Butterfly

 Well, I still have a very sick daughter, whose fever remains, and is now accompanied by a new rash in reaction to her Amoxicillin.  Therefore, I’ve gone “into the vault” for this post.  I am a geek and have saved almost every essay I ever wrote; I still have stories I wrote in second grade.  This is an essay I wrote my senior year of high school.  I have it saved on my drive because I used this as a model when teaching the reflective essay to my sophomore students. It comes in handy now as I aim to complete NaBloPoMo. Please enjoy!




            When I was younger, we lived directly across from a large, forty-acre field.  During the hot summer months, the grass in the field grew tall and thick and swayed in the breeze.  Mixed in amongst the grass were brightly colored Indian paintbrushes, daisies, and dandelions.  I would put on a pair of dirty old jeans and a white tank top and walk my bare feet out to the middle of this field. I would then lie down, hiding my body beneath the flowers and grass and insects crawled all about me.  The bright, radiant sun beat down upon my sweat soaked body as I stared up at the endless blue sky.  The sky was so open, limitless, and free.  Up there amongst the clouds is where I really wanted to be.  As I stared up at the sky, the most beautiful, admirable creatures I had ever seen would go gliding by – the butterflies.

            The butterfly, a narrow-bodied insect with four broad, colorful wings, continues to be a fascination of mine.  But at one time, before achieving such divine beauty, the butterfly was nothing but a very fuzzy, worm-like spiny larva known as a caterpillar.  Knowing this, I used to run about the backyard, scoop up caterpillars into my tiny hands, and then tightly seal them into empty Miracle Whip and Jiffy jars I found under the kitchen sink.  My brother and I would sit for hours watching those jars as the caterpillar within burrowed into a cocoon and went through her metamorphoses.  One fine morning there was a flapping of wings against a glass jar, and a beautiful butterfly was born – quite the transformation!  I wanted to keep her forever and lock her in my bedroom.  However, my mother said that I had to let the butterfly loose so she might be free to explore.  My mother also told me that if I kept her locked up any longer, she would only hurt herself.

            I was once like that slimy little caterpillar.  I was an ugly little girl with braces and greasy hair.  I felt incapable, so I just squirmed about trying to go unnoticed.  But some little girl must have honestly believed I would be something beautiful one day.  I would be a butterfly.

            That girl trapped me.  She told me right then what I would be.  She wrote it all down for me – in her dear diary.  “You’re going to be a mommy.  You’re going to marry Jason (the cutest boy in the fifth grade) and live together in a nice house.  Oh, yeah, and you’ll make lots and lots of money and drive a nice car.” Well, that little girl was I.  And for a while, just like that caterpillar, I went into a cocoon.  I stayed in my bedroom and I hid from the world.  But one day, I just couldn’t do that anymore.  I flapped my wings about, yearning for attention.

            My mother told me it was time to be free – to let go of fear – to truly be me.  My mother was a catalyst in bringing me out of that bedroom; and when a part of me wanted to remain a child forever, she forced me to grow up.  She told me to get a job when I really wanted to be building tree houses. (I built one anyhow).  My mother is a strong woman and she has always shared that strength with me.  My mother believed in me and felt positive I could care for myself and be whatever I so chose to be.

            Sometimes, though, I have difficulty feeling quite so positive about myself.  I have trouble letting go.  I’m still hurting myself, and I still feel trapped.  There are two conflicting voices in my head.  One, the little girl, tells me I must be true to those diary dreams.  The present voice tells me that I have a choice.  Little girl from the diary, you have to let me free.  I can’t marry Jason.  It has been almost ten years since the days of that childhood crush.  And what if I don’t make lots and lots of money?  What if I wash dishes at a restaurant for minimum wage?  And what if I don’t have a nice car?  What if I have an old black Ford flatbed that won’t start on these cold winter mornings?

            Those stupid words I sketched down and promised myself all those years ago make me feel I am a failure.  They are the words of a girl I no longer am, trivial words jotted on the pink lined pages of a plastic diary decorated with pastel ribbons and hearts.  Yet, somehow, those words still make me feel trapped.  Once I felt that if I threw those pages away, I could make the disappointment disappear.  In my years of high school rebellion, I held sort of a “ritual of rebirth.” I carried the ugly diary outside and individually threw each ink-covered page into a fire.  However, my attempts at erasing these menacing feelings were unsuccessful.  I felt no great relief upon watching the little girl’s diary go up in flames.  I realized it was never the written word that had such a significant impact on my life.

            I may have burnt that diary, but the idea still remains with me, and that little girl who wrote devoutly is still a part of me.  Little girl, please let me go or let me embrace my past.  I still want to know what it’s like to be a butterfly.


  1. Your pieces are always so heartfelt. You let us get to know you. This is bittersweet because we all have that little girl still whispering in our ear or hovering over us. I found my middle school diary recently and I haven't broken the lock yet. Maybe soon. I remember middle school was hard.

  2. And I hope you little one feels better soon.

    1. Thanks so much Gina! Middle school was a nightmare. Don't go there ... ever. Don't do it! My girl is still not feeling well, so I appreciate your well wishes very much.

  3. So much to relate to here, Angela. As Gina said, we never quite leave that little girl entirely behind. I love this essay --not sure I wrote anything nearly so compelling at that age --and would be very curious to hear how your students reacted.