As a kid I used to pluck tent caterpillars off the low-hanging tree leaves as I walked home from the bus stop. Navigating the uneven sidewalks ("Step up, step down," I'd tell myself silently), I'd let the squishy little blue-and-black dudes ride on my Holly Hobbie lunchbox, destined for either an empty peanut butter jar with holes punched in the top or, better for them, relocation to our backyard. It's a memory I associate with brand-new clothes, pristine pens and notebooks, slightly crunchy leaves, crisp air—the start of school.
So yesterday, when I dropped Z off for her first day of school, I was as delighted to see this as she was:
"We're keeping an eye and an ear on them," the school director told me, pointing at the chrysalises (chrysali?) dangling from the top of the little tent by the front door. "If any more start to hatch today, we're going to round everybody up to come watch."
I imagined the herd of little-kid and big-kid feet pounding (OK, proceeding in an orderly fashion) down the hallways, and the chatter of children barely able to contain their excitement: "One's hatching!" "A new butterfly!" I envisioned them, gathered around the tent, hushed now, the little kids scooting up to the front of the crowd, craning their necks to watch.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and kissed my preschooler goodbye.
When I picked Z up at the end of the day, she told me all was still quiet in the chrysalis tent. But she did gather with the rest of the school to release one monarch butterfly who'd hatched over the weekend.
Pretty. Damn. Cool.