Kid1 and Kid2, mostly Kid2, are ranchers. They gather crown flower leaves from around the neighborhood that have the added bonus of Monarch butterfly eggs on their undersides. Soon, the tiny caterpillars emerge, too small for my Mama eyes to see, and they eat the milky leaves voraciously. It is their job. At the bottom of the butterfly chamber, which is a cylinder of netting and plastic, lies a compost heap of stems and poop.
As we kept adding leaves, we kept getting more eggs and more caterpillars. At the moment, we have nearly 20 chrysalises hanging from the top of the chamber. Today we watched as one wriggled out of its skin to reveal a beautiful jade green shell in which it will change from one creature to another.
What an opportunity! To change who we are — a fat and fuzzy caterpillar hellbent on stuffing one’s face — into a Monarch butterfly, delicate leg threads, inquisitive antennae, slowly flapping our powdery wings that closely resemble a Siberian tiger’s stripes.
When that first Monarch wriggled out of its chrysalis, we stared in awe as it clung to its neighbor, still deep in its sleep. DH offered it his finger and the delicate insect grabbed hold, seemingly aware that he would take it out of the chamber and to someplace safe in the world, in our yard, on our orange tree. It rested there for a few hours.
Kid2, our 7-year-old entomologist, has done extensive research on this species and proudly announced that the butterfly was a boy. The girls had named him Mr. Big when he was a fuzzy, fat, furious eater. Now so handsome and free, where will he go, what will he see?