The gift boxed packaging nearly eludes me at first. Tucked behind a half eaten sandwich and a collage of artwork, is a white gift box that is mostly hidden from sight. I pull it out to get a better look; only to have Miss A launch into a frenzied outburst that I need to be very careful with the box.

“Awww, do you have a surprise gift for Mommy?”

“No, but you need to be careful, okay? You should put the box back!”

“Where did this box come from?”

“It is a gift from Emma. Mommy, you should really put the box down.”

Mommy does not hear the concerned tones. And proceeds to open the box. Only to have Miss A jump up and down as she tries to take the box away.

“What is in the box, A?”

“Promise not to get mad?”  Dear Lord, this can only end well.

“Yes, I do.”

She does a little drum-roll and asks me to close my eyes.  I hear the box being opened with great flourish.

“Open your eyes now!”

The box has leaves in it. And twigs. And a couple of pebbles. A spot of dampness – one assumes water existed inside the box in some form, once.

I move the pebbles around gingerly while A dances around me, giddy with the happiness that only a gift will bring.

I am about to confess that I do not understand Emma’s gift when comes the next declaration.

“I have named him Scallywag”

“Huh? Who?”

“Him. The caterpillar. See? See how cute he is?”

One must tread carefully in the vicinity of delicate feelings. I suppress the scream and set the box down on the table. Scallywag, in all his regal cuteness rests peacefully under a twig. He retreats to his idyllic world, even as A blows kisses at his rapidly departing form. I ponder on ways to word my questions with some sensitivity.

“So why did Emma get you a caterpillar?”

“You mean Scallywag? He is a part of the family now. You need to call him by his name!”

“So why did Emma get you Scallywag?”

“She didn’t. I named him that. She said I could name him anything I wanted”

Take 2.  I try again.

“It was very nice of Emma to get you a gift of a caterpillar that you named Scallywag!”

“Yeah. Charlie got one too. But the gift box was for me. Charlie had to keep her caterpillar on the desk.”

“Ahh. Emma has been handing out gifts, then!”

“Yeah. We didn’t ask for them, of course. That would have been rude”

“Of course!”

“But she wanted to get us something nice. Just for me, actually. But Charlie said she wanted a gift too. So Emma got two caterpillars.”

Strange child, this Emma. But I digress.

“So, this is like a, umm, pet?”

“Not any pet – Scallywag is special. Because Emma spent the morning looking for the cutest and the fattest and the fluffiest caterpillar she could find.”

“That is very, umm, generous of her”

“And then she had to go looking again because she had to get Charlie something too, remember?”

“Again, very generous of her!”

“Charlie kept her caterpillar on the desk because I got to keep the box. So the caterpillar went around in circles on her homework book. Mrs J. saw it and she threw it outside into the garden.”

“Awww, did Charlie cry?”

“No, but Emma did. She spent so much time looking for these fluffy caterpillars.”

The world can be harsh towards someone that has such exacting standards for caterpillars.

“Can I have the box back, Mommy? Emma just borrowed it. I don’t think her Mommy knows! ”

I promise to clean the box and return it in a day or two. This means that His Highness Scallywag will need a new home.  We all have the same problems – the need for a safe roof over our heads is a great unifier for all creatures great and small.

Miss A hums to herself and skips away after showering more affection on the hapless creature (the caterpillar, not me).

Someday soon the caterpillar will metamorphose into a butterfly with gossamer wings. Its wings will take it to distant lands and it will not need a home created of twigs, pebbles and carefully gathered leaves anymore. Someday the box will stand empty – yet overflowing with memories of a simpler time.

For all the beauty it imparts, we are powerless against chrysalis. And perhaps a child knows this better than anyone else. A caterpillar is but a butterfly waiting in the wings till time calls its name.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gauri
    Aug 05, 2010 @ 06:25:24

    Beautifully written :). This post did bring a lot of smiles to my face – it reminded me of Spike the Beetle :)))


  2. Rajavel
    Aug 06, 2010 @ 11:32:29

    Sweet. Again, you are all gooey towards the end. Wonder how scallywag is doing now? As it metamorphises , wonder how how A changes her attitude towards S


  3. Ardra
    Aug 06, 2010 @ 13:42:54

    A caterpillar is but a butterfly waiting in the wings till time calls its name.



  4. scarlettletters
    Aug 07, 2010 @ 19:56:02

    Gauri, Rajavel, Ardra – thanks 🙂


  5. Aria
    Oct 03, 2010 @ 21:43:55

    “Miss A hums to herself and skips away after showering more affection on the hapless creature (the caterpillar, not me).”


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