A few weeks ago, your mom ordered caterpillars online that would become butterflies. They arrived and your mom quickly removed herself from any responsibility and further interaction with the caterpillars and left it up to us to ensure that life would ensue. She would, however, maintain a seat on the board so far as to question and criticize decisions and the general happenings of our new pets.
So the caterpillars came in a cup that had some food in the bottom they would eat for about a week or two. Reagan, you took the lead and made sure they got lots of sunlight and got to see lots of places around our house. Eventually, they grew, and we wondered if they were going to get too big for their little cup. The directions said they’d form their cocoons after 7-10 days, at which time we were supposed to move them to a bigger cage where they would become butterflies.
Simple enough, right? Well, life doesn’t happen in a straight line. Of the six caterpillars that started, three or four crawled up and made their cocoon (chrysalis?). The other two didn’t seem interested, and I wasn’t sure if I should wait until everyone cocooned up, or if I would hurt those guys who were already formed and they’d hatch too soon in the sealed cup.
So, one night, me and alcohol decided that it was time to make the move. I left the cup in the bigger cage and the two guys who weren’t quite ready to cocoon would have their food supply, and could make the transition whenever they wanted in a bigger house. Or so I thought.
Now, I’d like to break from the linear flow of this post to note that your mom ordered these things in October. What we learned after the fact was that butterflies would not survive in sub-60 degree temps, and that fall wasn’t the best time to bring that kind of life into the world. At least not in Ohio. But nevermind that, she removed herself from responsibility and it was up to us to figure it out.
Fortunately for me, Deb took over a lot of the heavy lifting. Whereas I tried to use packing tape to fasten the paper sheet to the top of the cage, Deb swooped in and used clothespins to secure them. She also brought in some paper towels and lined the bottom of the cage, as some of the cocoons fell from their perch. She assured all of us that they would be fine, despite your mom being convinced every other day that we (I, really) surely killed them and that chances of survival were less than zero.
Eventually, they began to hatch, one by one. One of the last to cocoon never quite formed a full chrysalis, and it seemed like he might grow up to be a half-butterfly, half-caterpillar when he grew up (a halferpillar?). As they continued to hatch, we had to replenish a bowl with sugar water in it every so often, and Deb furnished the cage with flowers and chopsticks so that they could meander into their sugar water and exit safely.
These were truly magical times in the kingdom and all was well. You boys loved checking on the butterflies in the morning and Reagan, despite my best efforts to divert you, love reaching in and letting the butterflies land on your hand. We even tried to name them. One is Camille because she was feisty and had a red butt. The rest kind of look alike, so we named the rest of them Dan. Camille and the Dans. Another fun fact is that like most animals, butterflies poop and butterfly poop has this redish-brown hue to it. I think your mom still believes the poop is really blood and the cage is some sort of living crime scene where some butterflies were savagely murdered and everyone is just going about their day, but the truth is, they just cling to the side netting and poop down the mesh walls.
But like any good book or movie, the good times didn’t last forever. Dan-4, aka Halferpillar, didn’t quite blossom like his brothers and sister. Your mom and I each tried to “do the humane thing,” (if you’re reading this and not old enough to know what that means, I’ll tell you later) but Deb squashed that and held out hope for a full recovery. At last, Dan-4 half hatched and had these tiny little wings that couldn’t quite do what he needed them to. Sadly, Dan-4 did not make it.
Dan-4 is survived by his four brothers and one sister. Those who knew Dan-4 want him to be remembered for his charisma and can-do attitude. Unfortunately, his being grounded and down-to-earth did not serve him well since he was a butterfly.Me
Today, we held a small service in the backyard for Dan-4. Reagan, you picked a spot in the corner of the yard and we wrapped him in tissue with some of his favorite flower pedals. I found a funeral song on Spotify and we said some kind words — I asked you to say something nice about him and you said you loved him. You then tried to dig him back up and I had to remind you that I wasn’t going to live in a house with dead butterflies. Also, not trying to have a Pet Cemetery thing going on so we just left him there.
So I think we all learned something from this butterfly experiment. Your mom learned that before she brings new life into the house and just because the box says you can set them free after a few days, that more research should be done so that we aren’t trapped with five-and-a-half butterflies who can’t live outside in colder weather and just splatter-poop crime scenes on the reg. I learned that one wife, one dog, and two kids is all the life I can preserve, and that I need Deb’s help if we’re ever going to bring another pet into this house. Reags, I think you learned that all good things come to an end (REP Dan-4), and Koen learned that he can continue to be a tyrant and still get whatever he wants because he’s scary when he’s mad.
Oh, and I think your mom wants to get you a drum set, Reagan. Looking forward to writing that one in a few months…