The miracle twice-blest

Some joys can't be measured. Some privileges can't be assessed. To recognize and acknowledge them, though, is to store up treasures. Today I am rich, though I left the house feeling sorry for myself, poor in spirit and disheartened that nothing I tried seemed to be working out. My weight was a depressing problem which I refused to face. My writing was bearing scant fruit, though this year I'd worked at it harder than ever. And I'd just had a few unpleasant words with a husband who certainly didn't deserve such treatment -- all because of my own shortsightedness.

So when I drove into the garage with a trunkful of groceries -- the price of which was dismaying -- I wasn't prepared for the ecstatic greeting that came from our two grandsons. They flew out the kitchen door, blocking my exit from the car, overflowing with enthusiasm to show me treasures certain to elicit high praise from their nature- loving Gocky. Tyler screamed loudest, pushing aside his 11-year-old brother to get to me first. Todd, being twice as tall, ranged over him and held his mayonnaise jar higher.

Finally I was able to get out of the car. The little fellow grabbed my free hand. Todd wrapped a skinny arm around my neck. Both jumped up and down in their excitement. "See what we have, Gocky. Mine's a monarch caterpillar."

"Mine are milkweed worms. I'm feeding them milkweed leaves. Three in my jar!" outshouted Tyler. "How long will they take to turn into butterflies? Look at this guy chomping away!"

"Why does mine have this big swelling near his head?" Todd asked, pushing his jar at me.

I held it lightward, shook it a bit to clear the larva of multiple leaves, and suggested: "Maybe he's shedding his skin. They do that a few times, you know, growing, before they go into the chrysalis."

Bob, I noticed, was standing quietly in the background, grinning. Suddenly all was right with our world."I'll bring the groceries in," he said. "You take care of the boys. They couldn't wait for you to get back."

"Tyler's are milkweed moths," I decided, looking closer. We double-checked with the insect book. "See those bristles?"

He was momentarily disappointed. "Only months, Gocky?"

"They'll pupate, too," I promised. "They'll go into a cocoon-thing and rest. Then they'll come out and fly off. They're all quite wonderful. Each one is a miracle," I stressed.

"How do they do it?" Todd puzzled.

"They do just what comes naturally, what nature dictates. It bolsters our faith in life after what seems to be death, doesn't it? Really there's no such thing. In every one of those mummy-cases is a new stage of existence. We'd say it was a dry husk, but it's just a continuation. They have four stages to pass through: egg to larva, pupa to winged adult. Every step along the way is a fresh miracle."

Our heads touched over the nail-punctured jar cover. Todd seemed to grasp what I was offering."Did you ever see one actually change into a butterfly, Gocky?Will mine, here?"

"You'll have to watch it closely. It will begin to spin a silk-sort of web, attaching itself to a stem. It will wrap itself up and go dormant. Monarchs have about four broods a year, so it shouldn't be long. You'll have to release it from the jar before the legs kick out. Those great wings will need space to expand."

"But how long, about?" he persisted. Ty solemnly stood by.

"Well, the neighbor children brought a green chrysalis to me once.In just a few days we watched the color change, the gold specks darken inside and the whole miracle happen. I wrote about it. The piece is in an old scrapbook . . ." I looked at Bob.

He nodded. They took a Bit-o-Honey break while I got it out. Then, happily chewing their candy bars, they sat beside me while I read excerpts of an essay written 13 years back. "Before I was born," Todd marvelled.

As I skipped and interpreted to their level of understanding, the delight of the present seeped in. It was enriched by the memory of that earlier day when a small girl, now a professional hortculturist, asked similar questions and shared with me the miracle of her discovery. It was all there in fading print -- and vivid green and gold, and brown and jet patterns of the monarch butterfly as it fluttered off. Her hand had been moist in mine at the end of that story. On either side of me now, two dear little fists pressed hard into my palms. What other seeds of knowledge and joy were being sown that moment I couldn't say. Some just can't be measured . . . some pr ivileges can't, at the time, be assessed.

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