The countdown has begun. There are two large glass jars sitting side by side on the cabinet nestled against the wall here in the living room at Cee’s house. Inside each glass jar: a stick arranged diagonally across, cut to fit just right. Attached to each stick by nearly invisible thread: a chrysalis. Tucked inside each chrysalis: a butterfly. Waiting.
Needless to say, there’s some pretty cool stuff going down here on East 49th Street.
Growing up with a scientist for a dad I enjoyed many impromptu science lessons as a kid. Mostly, they had to do with the night sky and the countless objects hurtling through it as well as the objects seemingly standing still but also hurtling, just at an unobservable rate. I say I enjoyed them because I think I really did, that I’m not just romanticizing the whole thing now that the main character in these nighttime lessons is gone.
They involved blankets on the front lawn and small telescopes set up in the back of the house; flashlights and folding chairs and bug spray. I can remember being in my pajamas, my hair damp and sweet smelling from my evening shower, my brother and sister by my side. Our mom, too. We’d each do our best to listen patiently to our personal astronomer’s explanation of this (the lunar eclipse) or that (Jupiter’s moons). Brighter than all of it – the moon, the stars, the planets above – was my dad’s face, his eyes lit up like heavenly orbs as he delighted in his captive audience. I’m sure that, more than once during those lessons, it occurred to him that he might be grooming his own little astronomer, that one of his three kids would choose to follow in his footsteps and spend their days and nights gazing upward. (Sorry, pal.)
Which brings me back to this cabinet nestled against the wall. Back to these two glass jars. The day she brought her first caterpillar inside and started prepping for the amazing transformation to come, Cee told me she expected I’d write something here about it. That everything I’ve been up to this last year is akin to the awesome change from caterpillar to butterfly, nature’s shedding of skin and spreading of wings. I can’t argue with that, for sure, and maybe I will write about such things down the road. But for right now when I look at these butterflies-in-waiting (and I spend a bit of time every day looking at them, they’re mesmerizing), I don’t see myself. I see a dark expanse of nothing-ness and everything-ness stretched over my head. I hear my father’s voice in my ear.
I think that’s why I especially love these glass jars with their sticks and invisible threads, their promise of butterflies. They make me think of my dad and the time he spent with his family giving us things to wonder at – the way, in those precious hours between evening showers and bedtime, he lassoed the night sky and pulled it low, into our backyard, and showed us what it was made of. And, maybe, what we were made of, too.