From Buttersees to Butterflies – Part 1

For a good majority of her brief lifespan, Clara has had a love affair with butterflies. If it’s covered in butterflies, she’ll wear it, eat with it or just love the life out of it. Bonus points if it’s also purple. Butterflies adorn her jammies, everyday clothes, bedroom walls, and flatwear. She owns a giant stuffed butterfly and even sleeps with a pastel butterfly beanie baby, a fleece butterfly blanket and a butterfly that plays music and projects images of stars on her walls. We have two plants in our yard specifically meant to attract butterflies. Last year for Halloween, I dressed her up as a monarch butterfly. I think you get the point. Before she could pronounce the term properly, she used to call these magical creatures “buttersees.” I was actually brought to tears the day she correctly stated, “butterfly” — another indicator that my baby was growing up before my eyes.

I’m not sure why she loves butterflies so much, but this infatuation is definitely among one of her many endearing qualities. In particular, I think she’s attracted to their antenna, as when she was smaller, she identified anything with antenna (or something possessing what she interpreted as antenna) as a butterfly. I distinctly remember one occasion when we were out for dinner in Ithaca, NY celebrating my sister-in-law’s graduation. As we were finishing up our meals, Clara pointed to a street light and proudly proclaimed, “A buttersee!” To her credit, the shape of the lamp did resemble a pair of antenna.

Buttersee Zoo, September 2011

Clara’s butterfly obsession prompted our first visit to The Butterfly Zoo last summer. I decided to take the trek out to Tiverton, where the Zoo is located, on my 33rd birthday. Since, I am one of those people who feels as if their birthday is akin to a national holiday, I wanted to spend it doing something special — something that I knew would make Clara happy. So, we were off to see the butterflies.

After thoroughly enjoying ourselves during last year’s excursion, we decided to take a trip to The Butterfly Zoo again. This time, it was my 34th birthday (I’m sensing a tradition here) and Clara and I were joined by Taylor and Elyse. Last September when we visited the buttersees, Clara timidly rode in her stroller and pointed out the “sleeping” butterflies (they weren’t dead, just hanging on the mesh that enclosed the greenhouse). This year, Clara ran from butterfly to butterfly excitedly exclaiming, “See the butterfly, Mommy? He likes me!” And when we told her that she couldn’t

Butterfly Zoo, September 2012

touch the butterflies (Zoo rules), she leaned into wherever they were fluttering about, smacked her lips together and gave them all air kisses.

Ironically enough, the journey of the butterfly doesn’t end at The Butterfly Zoo. As I have just about run out of time and energy at this point, please check back tomorrow (Friday) evening for the riveting conclusion of From Buttersees to Butterflies, when I reflect on what I feel is the meaning behind my butterfly sightings on Block Island last weekend…

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