Frank opened his wings, looked skyward, and flew above the milkweeds. Transformed from larva into the beauty of a Monarch, he had returned to the home of his youth. Freedom glistened on orange, white and black as Frank sensed a trip of epic proportions was about to commence. The filaments on his head twittered and in an instant, Frank was headed to Mexico.
The story begins innocently, an empty lot filled with milkweed. Years ago, a mother and her young daughter take a walk past the milkweeds and make a discovery – caterpillars ready to become Monarchs. Mom takes a caterpillar, a small branch and milkweed leaf home as a “life-changing” experiment for her daughter. They find a secure, see-through container for the little larva and his furnishings. The top is covered in breathable material and then mom and daughter wait. They wait and watch a life transform, the images of a miracle reflecting from their eyes, the beauty of a being that creates a lump in their throats.
They do it again a year later, with the same joyous results.
And then, the lot is cleared of its milkweed, the home of many Monarchs gone. There is a freeze in Mexico. Mother and daughter’s life-changing moments are gone.
Twelve years later, two friends go for a walk. One of the friends is the mom. They walk past the sunflowers, the natural grasses, the milkweeds. Mom begins to tell her friend about the Monarch experience with her daughter several years earlier. Her eyes betray the feeling of excitement as she walks close to the milkweed, touching the pods, gently turning the leaves toward the late-day sun. The friends continue to talk, laugh, and walk in the midst of nature.
Then it happens – a friend becomes the mom again. She points. She “squees”. She finds a larva. A single, solitary, fourth generation larva sitting on a milkweed leaf, in the middle of a thousand native plants. She wants to see it happen again, the life-changing event. The friends call the caterpillar “Frank” and the mom takes him and his furnishings home in a plastic container and waits.
A few days later, the friends are together and Frank is the topic of conversation. Frank has secured himself to a small tree branch in his makeshift home. His “never-let-go” silk holds him strong to begin the process of metamorphosis. Frank is a bright green chrysalis, the dots of gold running across his belly and scattered about like drops of gold paint. The friend started to understand the mom’s excitement over Frank, the anticipation of seeing him transform into a beautiful butterfly.
The excitement is a good thing as the friend has to take over responsibility of raising Frank to adulthood. The mom has been called away to reserve duty for two weeks and cannot leave Frank alone. Although the mom is disappointed that she will not see Frank emerge from the chrysalis, she is equally thrilled for her friend, who has never seen the miracle of metamorphosis. The mom will have to be involved through the surrogate eyes of her friend, a few texts, and a phone call. The friend takes green Frank home. She finds a spot where Frank will stay out of trouble and the friend waits.
Day 10 of the green chrysalis. The friend is concerned. When will Frank turn black? Is he overdue? Is Frank OK? He’s been terribly quiet. The friend moves Frank to a brighter location, hoping that the sun will urge him to come out of his pupa and into the light. Frank is green another night.
It begins on Sunday. Frank turns black. The friends text back and forth.
The friend: “Frank turned black overnight!”
The mom: “Kewl! Won’t b long now. R U taking pictures? I’m so exicted & jealous. This was always my fav part!”
The friend: “I’ll email pics 2 u.”
A few minutes go by…
The friend: “OMG! Frank is out! He’s out!”
The mom: “Don’t panic! His wings need to dry b4 he can fly. Bout an hour. Just watch and take pictures! How exciting!”
The friend: “I took video w/my camera 4u.”
The mom: “He’s beautiful isn’t he? U have witnessed a miracle of nature!”
The friend ambles off to church to give Frank his time to dry off. Frank occasionally flaps his wings while the friend is telling God about Frank and how cool he is for having created him.
Ninety minutes later, Frank is on his way home. He sits shotgun next to the driver, patiently waiting. He yearns for the milkweed that will provide him energy to fly thousands of miles in the coming days. Frank yearns to fly. The friend parks the car and begins the walk into the sunflowers and milkweed, the sun beaming from above, a gentle breeze bending the foliage. Frank is excited. He flaps his wings with intent. He senses the time is near. The mom calls her friend to impart words of wisdom and let out another “squee.”
The friend finds a clump of milkweed and says to herself that this is the spot. The lace fabric covering Frank’s temporary home is removed. Frank is stunned for a second by the blank space above his head and without any encouragement, he opens his beautiful wings and flies. Up, up and over the milkweed he goes. In a flash, Frank is gone, flying blissfully free to live the next chapter of his butterfly existence. Unknowing to the friend, he waves goodbye and turns south.
The friend texts the mom. “Our little boy has grown up and flown away.”
The mom replies, “Bittersweet day.”
The happy tears of their hearts flow, the wonder and miracle of nature and Frank firmly rooted in their memories forever.