What the Butterflies Taught Me

– by Jurgen F. Haver (Husband of Judith)

It can take a lifetime for some of us learn one of its most important lessons.  I was fortunate.  I learned s87800854uch a lesson by accident when I was ten.  I was living in Detroit, Michigan.  It was 1942.  I walked those “20” miles to school, I like to tell our grandchildren about.

Summer vacation was a couple of weeks away. Up until that day, my on-time attendance record at school was perfect.  About a block from my house there was a vacant lot. (We still had vacant lots back then—places to play baseball and football—neighborhood gathering places for children.)

As I looked out across the lot I felt my heart leap. A leap so huge and emotion-shaking that I didn’t feel its equal until the first time I fell in love.  The entire field was filled with Monarch Butterflies.  Hundreds of them.  Maybe even thousands.

However many there were it was enough that the memory has stayed in my memory banks for a lifetime.  I was transfixed.  I sat on the sidewalk and watched them move across the empty lot in waves.  I sat ever so still.  Some landed a few inches from me.  Others flew past me. Some circled my head.  The expression “once in a lifetime experience” is not even close to appropriate.

I heard the school’s warning bell sounding in the distance.  It meant I had ten minutes to get there.  No problem.  Easy trip. I could do it in half the time.  The question was—did I wanted to leave “heaven” to get there on time.

I didn’t!

Now, this next part is kind of strange.  Still, it is the part I am most proud to claim.  It marvels me.  I’ve tried to understand what grace befell me at 10 years old that allowed me to think the thoughts I thought.

I clearly remember thinking: If I’m late what can they do me?  I also remember the answer.  They will call my mother and make me stay after school.  And, this is where a little bit of my “I like that kid”, comes in.

I remember asking myself, “Can you deal with the consequences?”  I answered, “Sure, I can.”  So, I stayed and watched the Monarchs for another half hour.

When I got to school my teacher asked if I had an excuse.  I knew better than to try to explain.  Even at this young age I knew that those in authority never understood truthful explanations.  So I said, “No excuse, ma’am.”

87669060That answer moved me to the principal’s office.  She asked the same question and I gave the same answer.  The principal called my mother and told her I’d have to stay after school.  Also, she wanted my mother to come in so they could “discuss things.”

Under most circumstances I would have been afraid.  But, because of the Monarchs, I wasn’t.  As a punishment I was kept an hour after school.  My mother came in at 4:00 p.m. to collect me.

The principal told her I had no excuse.  Mother promised to get me started for school earlier.  Then mother and I walked home together.  She asked what had really happened.  Moms always know!

I told her about the Monarchs and she said, “You did the right thing, son.”  It’s hard to remember her words without a high level emotion.  But—the lesson I learned—the lesson that has carried me through life is—



About Judith Costello

A certified art therapist, Judith is the author of numerous articles and books on parenting and child development, including Zen Parenting. She writes from Moriarty, New Mexico.

One thought on “What the Butterflies Taught Me

  1. I had a similar experience a few years ago. Our cabin is situated in a very large pasture surrounded by woods. The pasture has a lot of golden rod bushes that the Monarchs love. In late summer one day the pasture was filled with Monarchs. A cite to behold. I felt like Cinderella with all the Monarchs gracefully filling the air. Something I will never forget. Thank God for the simple pleasures of nature.