“The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.”
That is my mood today. I am the parent to a beautiful newborn white lined sphinx moth. Or I was.
Other the last couple of weeks, my sons and I fed flowers to two white lined sphinx caterpillars until they cocooned themselves. We have since been waiting patiently for the moths to hatch.
The last two days, I excitedly checked the jar containing the cocoons twice a day. I knew at least one was getting close to hatching. The cocoon was starting to become thin and brittle, and I could see the outline of the wings in under the thin exterior.
My son, Liam told me he needed to put more leaves in the jar. Even though I knew the cocoons were not eating anything, I humored him. I noticed he had placed about twenty leaves and twigs into the jar, to the point that the lid almost would not close. I started to remove some of the leaves, and saw my little baby poised delicately on a branch.
It sounds silly, but meeting that little bug filled me with elation and wonder. I felt like I had a part in her completing her journey to becoming a caterpillar. We had fed her, prepared a home, and carefully monitored her. Ok, she did the work, but I still connected to her progress.
This will sound strange and way over the top, but it was a grand experience. We were watching an evolution before our very eyes, but there also seemed to be a player greater than ourselves. I still can’t quite explain it, but I was really enamored with this little moth.
I opened the jar to let her fly away, but she stayed inside. I left the lid off all night, but she was still perched on her branch in the morning. Liam wanted to take her to school, so we closed the lid and carried her to the car. I advised him we’d set her free after class.
And that is what we did. We went to play on the playground, as usual. The kids wanted to see what was in the jar. I showed them, and one boy asked if he could set her free. Liam agreed, so I let the boy take the stick out and place it on the ground.
The kids watched her closely, examining her stripes and trying to feed her crackers. But still, she would not fly. I got worried that perhaps something was wrong, or maybe she needed a few days to adjust before spreading her wings.
The children began playing with her roughly. Liam had run off to swing and was not around to protect her. I was talking to other moms and not paying attention. They piled graham crackers on her back. When I noticed and told them to stop, it was too late. I lifted the crackers off of her, and she was not moving. I picked her up and placed her on the other side of the fence.
My little moth that I raised so diligently, gone. I can’t believe how strongly I am affected by it. I feel like I let her down, that perhaps she would have been better off in the wild instead of with my meddling in her existence. Sorry little moth. I’ll try to do better with your sister.