I was in creche, when they handed me a box full of caterpillars
And the mean grown up - the one who always gave me time outs
and always left me sandwich triangles made of crust for lunch,
she said, somewhat cynically,
to watch them grow.
So over the coming weeks I stared in earnest,
My small three year old face screwed up at the glass,
Trying to spot the caterpillars.
Trying to find the small green crawling figures,
Hidden somewhere in the box of leaves and sticks.
At some point my mum - another grown up - interrupted my concentration to show me where they were hiding,
All covered up in a brown nest I learned to call a “chrysalis”
And I could spell it too: C.H.R.Y.S.A.L.I.S.
And she told me that patience had power,
That the caterpillar in the chrysalis would turn to goo and then into a butterfly. And all I had to do was wait.
(And, that if I didn’t wait long enough, and tore open the chrysalis far too early, all I’d have was goo - and really that would just be a lesson in patience.)
So I was patient.
And the caterpillar in the chrysalis turned to goo and then into a butterfly.
And the butterflies were beautiful, and full of colours
And I watched their wings meet air
And my 3 year old self knew awe for the first time.
One day in Grade 5, my teacher used that metaphor on me.
He was the coolest grown up at my primary school:
Not only did he have cool hair,
He let me and my friend sing and play music instead of doing math work,
because math work was boring,
and he knew that our artistic endeavours would pay off far more one day.
Little did he know that we’d both become professional artists.
He taught me to sing “From little things, big things grow,”
And he said that us students were caterpillars,
That we needed a place to be nurtured,
And that we would feel all gooey for a while,
But to trust that we could be cared for,
And that then we would turn into butterflies.
And it was then that I knew nostalgia for the very first time.