Butterfly Collection

April 12, 2013

On Mom’s neverending quest to channel the curiosity and “destructive” impulses of her wildchild (moi) into something more socially acceptable, evidently Dr. Spock’s ‘bible’ of child-rearing recommended something to the tune of “involving the child in building a collection.”

And what could be more fascinating – and socially acceptable – than a butterfly collection? In my childhood they were abundant certain times of year (…unlike now…) and included: Swallowtails, cabbage butterflies, lovely orange/black striped butterflies, and many more – in both large and small sizes.

Never mind that we couldn’t afford an official net for the project*. My parents invested in a chloroform jar, pins and a board and proceeded to instruct me on the fine art of collecting.

*Note: skimping on the net WILL come back and bite ya in the end…

There was only one leetle problem: the horror on my face which occurred sometime between Basic Training (i.e. how to capture a butterfly using the jar) and realization that my parents were condoning not only murder but the equally-gruesome spectre of pinning the corpus delecti to a board for display purposes – a venture that was, to my mind, seriously depraved; involving many ethical conundrums, and decidedly less inviting than viewing said butterfly in flight.

Ever the innovator, I took my early lessons and improved upon them.

Mom must’ve been pretty busy when I innocently requested access to her canning jar collection “for my butterfly project”, else her ‘spidey senses’ would’ve surely identified that something was up. After all, the chloroform jar HAD been included in the kit (…just, not the net.)

So armed with an evolving case of some 20+ jars with lids, I began to build my collection. Really – a quick paw and a butterfly too entranced with flower to notice a jar and lid before it clamped around ‘em was all that was required in the venture.

Having smuggled the 20 jars into my bedroom and closed the door, I was faced with the next conundrum in my project, as I had NO intention of murdering and pinning corpses. There was only one solution: I let all 20+ loose in my room and rejoiced as my bedroom filled with flying butterflies.


Perhaps it was the screams of delight that brought my mother to my bedroom door asking the inevitable “what’s going ON in there?” (…a query which received the usual guilty-sounding “NOTHING!” in response). And perhaps the admonition “don’t come in here!” is NOT the phrase of choice to open with in an explanation that there are, mysteriously, some 20+ butterflies on the loose.

Mom opened the door and like flies to honey a swarm of butterflies streamed past her into the house, accompanied by the only phrase I knew of to mitigate the look of horror on her face: “Isn’t it a GREAT collection??”

Note to parents: do NOT become stingy on the “net sold separately” piece. It may be EASY to capture butterflies in the wild on plants with jars; but loose ‘em in a house with NO net, and recapture becomes a CHALLENGE. Second note: colanders do NOT have long enough handles. Brooms and open windows work much better.

Even though I applauded the colorful flyers in the house and advocated for their permanent residency, apparently Mom shared no such sense of joy in the matter and insisted on shooing every butterfly out an open door or window, wasting heat in the process and expending waaay more energy than I had spent in obtaining the initial collection.

I was sent to my room “to think about it” when the last winged flyer shot out the door to freedom, and Dad was duly admonished about “what YOUR daughter did”, when he came home.

It didn’t help matters that he broke out into such (rare) laughter that he couldn’t speak, much less punish.

It also didn’t help matters that when my Mom invited me out of my room hours later, she also uncovered Stage 2 of Project Butterfly.

Can I help it if I was caught counting the stash of caterpillars and cocoons that had remained safely hidden under my bed in a few remaining jars?

I figgered if I ran out of flyers – replacements from cocoons were on the way…

Science projects. You gotta love ‘em …

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