The Caterpillar and the Lonely Child

There are some lives that, for entirely random reasons, occur and are painful in the loneliness that they need to endure. Rebecca’s was one such life.

She was an only child of two professional parents. She was the product of their façade of a family to further the thin veneer that their careers required. Their combined wealth insured that Rebecca was well cared for and that her education was of the highest caliber.

Of course, their professional pedigree would have nothing less.

She was only eight years old. Her world was filled with all the elements that her parent’s wealth could provide, except the obvious, their love and affection. At her school, her classmates seem to reflect the same narrow world and values that her parents had. The school had done a wonderful job grooming the next generation of wealthy alumni and their contributions to the continued ego of the school.

Rebecca was awoken every morning by the nanny/housekeeper’s named Maria, who spoke little English but seemed to have an endless dialogue of love. She shared it lavishly with Rebecca. It saved Rebecca’s soul to know that love like that existed and that the world was not entirely bleak.

But it wasn’t enough.

Rebecca had a heart that needed more. It had the potential for tremendous growth. The seed was there waiting to be properly watered and cared for. She felt the need for additional warmth.

It was Spring. She was off from school for a ten-day break. After a winter of uncommon cold, the first sunny warm day called her outside. Marie shooed Rebecca outside and Rebecca happily complied. Maria handed Rebecca a soft wool blanket that would keep her warm outside if she got a chill.

She found a sunny spot that felt perfect on the edge of the well-maintained, of course, backyard lawn. It had a putting green that no one ever used but added the right touch of affluence to the property for any visiting guests.

She laid her blanket on the soft grass near a stand of milkweeds.

It just felt like just the right place.

She took out her favorite coloring book and crayons and sat happily humming a private song to herself.

She was happy.

The sun moved across the morning sky never leaving Rebecca in the shade. It was a warm and friendly sun. Rebecca continued to color and hum in contentment. This was the world that loved her.

There was a quiet voice that suddenly seemed to speak over her shoulder. She looked around but no one was there. She shrugged and got back to coloring.

Then she heard the voice again.

Again, she turned around. No one was there. “How odd.” She thought as she tried to start coloring again but she was much more clever this time. She stopped humming to hear better and she turned ever so slightly to catch sight of whoever was playing hide and seek.

She heard the voice again but this time instead of looking up she looked down. There on the leaf of one of the milkweed plants sat a little caterpillar smiling at her.

Rebecca was young enough to accept the magical reality of the moment as a perfect part of her life. She smiled back.

“Did you say something to me?” she asked.

“Why yes I did. I said you are doing a wonderful job coloring.”, the caterpillar responded. “May I come close to look?”

“Of course.”, responded Rebecca. “Where would you like to sit?”

“If it is ok with you, could I sit on your shoulder for a while? It would be a much better view for me?” asked the caterpillar.

Rebecca carefully lifted the caterpillar off the leaf and placed it on her right shoulder under the warming sun. “Ah”, said the caterpillar, “this is perfect.” Adding politely, “Thank you.”

“My name is Finley by the way.” Said Finley as he made himself comfortable on her shoulder. “What is your name?”, he asked.

“My name is Rebecca but some people call me Becky but I don’t like it.” Rebecca said with a slightly cross look on her face.

Finley responded, “And I can see why. Rebecca is a much prettier name and I like it too.”

The two sat for the remainder of the afternoon in the warm sun talking like long term friends while Rebecca continued to color. At the end of the day, Rebecca carefully put Finley back on his leaf and they wished each other a good evening with a promise to meet again in the morning.

Rebecca felt it had been an absolutely splendid day and Maria was happy to see her come in with a smile for once on her face.

The Spring break seemed to pass quickly. The two were inseparable. With Finley safely on her shoulders they were able to go for walks and he got to see more than just the backyard. During that time Maria noticed she had never seen Rebecca so happy.

The day before school was to start, Finley became very quiet on Rebecca’s shoulder. Rebecca could tell when someone was about to say something bad or sad. She had a lot of practice in her lifetime.

“Hmph”, said Finley clearing his throat.

Rebecca held up a finger so Finley could leave her shoulder and could face as they spoke.

“You’re not going to see me for a while.” started Finley. Rebecca’s heart began to sink. People left her all the time but surely not Finley too!

“You are going to leave me.” She quietly sobbed, holding back her tears. Finley had to hold tighter onto Rebecca’s finger as he felt the sadness spread throughout her body.

“No, no, no.” Finley answered quickly, afraid of hurting his best friend. “I am not leaving you that way.”, he said with absolute reassurance. “I need to go into my chrysalis for a few weeks.”, he added quickly.

“What’s that?”, she replied.

It’s kind of like a personal clubhouse. It’s also called a cocoon.”, he told her.

“Can I go in your clubhouse?”, Rebecca asked with sudden excitement.

“No unfortunately, it’s way too small and it wouldn’t be any fun for you.”, he replied.

“Why not?”, she countered.

“Because I need to change and it only happens when I am left alone inside my cocoon to sleep.” He added.

“Oh.” She responded with deep disappointment.

They both sat quietly for a few moments as it all sank in.

“Why do you have to change?” sighed Rebecca.

“I don’t have to change; I need to change. “answered Finley.

“But why?” asked Rebecca stubbornly.

“I don’t know why but I must. It will happen whether I want to or not. It is just the way it is. But”, Finley slipped in before Rebecca could ask another question, “I can really use your help.”

Suddenly smiling, Rebecca asked simply, “How?”

“When I go into my cocoon, can you protect me from being eaten by any birds?” said Finley hopefully.

“I would love to, Finley. You can stay in my room with me. No birds can get you there.” They both smiled at the solution that they came up with.

That evening, Rebecca came out with a flower pot and replanted Finley’s milkweed plant into the pot as Finley watched with happiness from her shoulder. They then went up to her room and put the pot with the milkweed plant on Rebecca’s night stand.

They both smiled happily and Rebecca said, “Gee this is my first sleep over.” Finley said it was his first as well.

That night both Rebecca and Finley wished each other a Good Night and tucked in to sleep. In the morning, when Rebecca got up, she saw that Finley had been busy constructing his cocoon during the night. She couldn’t see inside the cocoon but she knew he was OK but she missed him already.

Weeks went by and every morning Rebecca awoke hoping to see her friend again. She knew he was there so she just went about her life waiting patiently.

And her life had changed as well. Maybe Finley helped but she seemed to have emerged from her own cocoon. At school she shockingly discovered that not all the girls were mean. She found new friends and shared new interests with them. Maria noticed that she sang in her room and smiled at dinner that she ate in the kitchen chatting with Maria about her day, her classes and her new friends.

It was a happy house even though her parents never spent much time there. Rebecca had found her world.

One warm sunny morning Rebecca awoke and saw a stunning beautiful butterfly sitting on the milkweed plant smiling as it looked at Rebecca. As Rebecca rolled over to look at the butterfly more closely it said to her: “Why good morning Rebecca!” with a cheerful smile to complete the greeting.

Rebecca blinked a few times and in recognition smiled back in a way that captured the joy of her soul in that moment.

It was Finley and he was wonderful. The colors of his wing glowed in the morning sun. He had become a butterfly.

“I was worried that you were going to sleep the day away.”, he said as he moved closer to her on the bed.

“I thought you would never leave your cocoon Finley. I waited for you for weeks and weeks.”, she said breathlessly with the excitement that the reunion gave them both.

“I was asleep the whole time but I feel like all I did was dream of you and this moment. I knew it would come and here we are finally!”, he responded with the equal joy of seeing her.

Rebecca knew that this moment would live in her heart for the rest of her life and her eyes shone with the pleasure of that thought.

Finley saw it and responded in kind. Neither talked and just stayed in the moment as long as they could. They knew that they will always share this moment together regardless of the friendships and loves they would have with others.

This would always be theirs and theirs alone.

How wonderfully remarkable.

Sometimes life finds that brief instant of perfection. It is unfortunately fleeting but it is so, so important to recognize it when it occurs. Always cherish your moment. Its beauty will always banish away the ugly darkness that appears in everyone’s life.

Never let the light fade from your life.

Always find the joy. It’s worth the effort.

You never know what you will find on a milkweed leaf.

Emma Holiday

Writers note: I have found myself in some very dark moments lately. I think many of us have the same experience. This morning I awoke after one of those tough nights and this story just seemed to flow. I think from my heart because it seemed to expose a tenderness in me that I was shocked to find.

I hope this story was worth your time.

After decades of denial I finally answered the question “What’s wrong with me?” The answer is “Nothing”. I am transgender and I am OK.

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