Some friendships are like butterflies.
We had a big property when I was kid. It wasn’t huge–not big enough for me to get lost in it–but it was big enough for me to pretend I was lost. Often, that’s enough.
It’s like when I went to Target as a knee-high kid. I would run off to look at the Legos or play with the huge inflatable balls, and I reveled in how independent I was, knowing all along that my mom was just around the corner looking at microwaves or something. But one time she wasn’t there. Being the logical child that I was, I, of course, started looking for her. I searched that entire store, and she really wasn’t there. Trust me; I would have found her.
Now, when one is lost in a strange place, one has two options. I briefly indulged in the first, finding a nice isolated corner and sniffling a few times, but that grows boring rather quickly, and I soon moved on to the second: why would one want to sit and cry when he could be playing the gameboy on display in Electronics? Standing in front of that gameboy is where is where my mother found me ten minutes later. She scolded me, of course, but now, a decade and a half later, I only remember this incident because the gameboy had pokemon, and I liked pokemon.
Similarly, another time in my childhood, I was lost exploring a “jungle” fifty feet outside my back door. It had lions, monkeys, polar bears, and everything. I think my little brother was acting as my hunting dog because what kind of jungle exploration would it be without man’s best friend, anyways?
We parted the long grass through which we hiked, and suddenly a savage butterfly reared it’s hulking mass and lumbered towards us. Every wilderness explorer knows that the best way to deal with rabid butterflies is to run like heck. The glory of a successful butterfly hunt isn’t worth the lives it could cost–at least not in most cases. Unfortunately, my faithful dog didn’t know any of this. He jumped on that butterfly, barking fiercely as he tried to wrestle it to the ground.
The butterfly escaped, and my brother-dog somehow came out of the encounter without any gruesome bodily injuries. It was only after the butterfly flew away that we realized what a special butterfly it had been. We had missed the opportunity to capture a rare “yellow-winged flapper”. Those things could probably bring twenty bucks on that black market thing I had heard about on the news. Now, I wasn’t sure, but it seemed as if twenty bucks might be worth the lives of a few butterfly hunters. The hunt was on.
We scoured that yard, my brother and I, from the dread hills of gravel to the pit of despair (it was actually just a window to the basement that was recessed below the ground, but a really little kid could still have gotten trapped in there, okay?), but the butterfly eluded us. Even my faithful mutt’s keen tracking nose couldn’t find it. Despairing, we sulked into the kitchen upon hearing, “Dinner’s ready!” for perhaps the third, fourth or twentieth time.
“Dinner’s ready” turned out to be something of an understatement. Dinner was not only ready, but it had already been served and eaten by those who happened to be present for the event. There was some small tidbits left for us, and solemn introspective silence reigned as we munched on cold chicken wings and ramen. It was a silence born of deep planning, not defeat. My brother, showing his true talent for planning shoved three chicken wings into his mouth and asked, “Can you push me on the tire swing when you’re finished eating.” His plan was a bad one, of course: what we really needed to do was ask mom. First, though, I pushed him on the tire swing because I’m a big brother , and that’s what big brothers do.
We approached my mom. She appeared to be performing some ritual for cleansing the house of demons. It involved waving around a stick with feathers on the end. “Where do butterflies live?” I asked her.
She finished banishing demons from her porcelain figurines and then addressed us. Well, she addressed me, anyways–I think my brother had wandered off to chew on something. “Let’s find out,” she said. “To the bookshelf!”
Now, I don’t know if she was trying to be cool like batman (Batman isn’t actually that cool. Pokemon is cool.), but I do know that the bookshelf to which she was referring was filled with school-books. I love books, and I loved books even back then, but school-books are something else: they’re dry, have too many pictures breaking up the words, and they decidedly lack the anthropomorphized animals I was reading about constantly at that time. I quickly explained to my mother how badly I needed to use the restroom right now and made a break for the back yard when she wasn’t looking.
At this point, we considered ourselves defeated. All my best resources were exhausted, and my little brother didn’t want to be a dog anymore. That butterfly was going to fly free one more day at least.
Just as we prepared to go inside and complain to mom about how bored we were, we noticed my little sister standing way back near the edge of our lawn and behaving strangely. My sister was a ball of pure energetic mania unexplainable by any laws of conservation of energy. This girl did jumping jacks while she was sleeping. She wrestled her boy cousins, ages ranging from three to seven years more than hers, and she won. We compared her to Godzilla in a favorable manner. The abnormality in this case was that she was simply standing still.
My brother and I approached cautiously. We were halfway convinced that she was dead, and we didn’t want whatever had gotten her to get us, too. As we came closer, we noticed that she was, in fact, still alive. Her eyes were moving, and there, on her sleeve, sat our yellow butterfly.
My little brother ever-smiling face suddenly transformed into that of a ferocious hound, and he pounced, grabbing at the butterfly. The butterfly, of course, flittered up and away, as unconcerned as can be. My sister’s reaction was all to predictable.
I was watching her start screaming and beating up my little brother with enjoyment, wondering how long I could get away with not telling mom about the fight, when something caught my attention: the butterfly, attracted by my still observation was fluttering down towards me. I waited until I thought it was just within reach and then jumped to grab at it. I missed. I also fell and brought my face into close proximity with the dirt.
My had sister had stopped screaming and now let out one of her giggles. She skipped over and yanked me by the arm off the ground, leaving my little brother to slink away like a beaten dog. “No, silly,” she said to me. “You have to let the butterfly land on you. Your only job is to be still–safe.” She skipped away, and I could have sworn a blue butterfly landed on her shoulder even as she went along, unconcerned.
I still haven’t learned to catch butterflies like my little sister does.