My family was poor. As a child, by not having four-legged friends, I grew an unusual fascination in the behaviors of tiny critters, mainly insects. Curious in what lay beneath the ant piles, I liked to dig apart their colonies to watch the different activities of the workers, the soldiers, and the queen ant that I read about in library books. I never developed a fear of grasshoppers, even if they spat “tobacco” on my fingers, or of handling caterpillars that pricked when they crawled on my hand, or of sneaking up on lizards that left their wiggling tails behind, wondering what the funny red thing on their throats going in and out was all about. My fascination for those critters was a favorite pastime.
Not all school projects were memorable, but I remember one that stuck with me for years. When the teacher assigned a report on any subject, I decided to pick caterpillars. On a large poster board, I drew the four stages of the butterfly: (1) egg, (2) larva, (3) pupa, and (4) adult. I described metamorphosis. Though it wasn’t a Picasso, my work earned a ranking on my school’s hallway wall, posted for all to see, with the highest mark in class: A+.
One sunny day at recess, I found a black woolly caterpillar crawling in the shrubs and gently placed it in my palm. My classmate naturally was curious and asked to see what I held. When I opened my hand to show him, he whacked it so hard that the caterpillar flew out and disappeared onto a bush. And that’s when I morphed! Without hesitation, I slapped him on the face, hard. The boy stood stunned, mouth opened.
As an adult, I often thought about the word metamorphose. It means to change completely in nature or form.
I think about how alcohol deceived my loved ones, giving them a false sense of reality. After drinking, like the caterpillar many years ago in my book report, they metamorphosed into social butterflies fresh out of its cocoon. They felt invincible, glamorous or intelligent. Gone were the restraints that crippled them emotionally. They carried a false sense of bravado. It was then that they laughed wildly, conversed freely, and flirted openly.
The more attention and compliments they received from others, the less they knew the difference between genuine praise and mere flattery.
(A small excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace ).
© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved