My family was poor. As a child, by not owning four-legged friends, I grew an interest in the behaviors of tiny critters, such as insects. Curious at 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 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 — I was too caught up 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 recall 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 school during recess, I found a black, woolly caterpillar crawling in the shrubs and unafraid, gently placed it in my palm. A classmate 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 open.
As an adult, I often thought about the word metamorphose. It means to change completely in nature or form.
I think back to how alcohol deceived my loved ones, giving them a false sense of power. After drinking, like the caterpillar many years ago in my book report, they metamorphosed into social butterflies fresh out of their 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 taken from Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace. )
© M.A. Pérez, 2016, All Rights Reserved