I want to tell you a story about a caterpillar.
Once upon a time there was me, a slightly neurotic mum of three and wannabe novelist. I spent much time looking back fondly on my childhood. I liked to tell my children about the fun things I’d do as a kid and then try to get them to do similar things so I could live through them and just for a moment feel the wonder of being a child again.
One day I saw a furry, little caterpillar sitting on a spinach leaf in our garden. It was all fluffy and cute, munching away at a leaf as quickly as possible before the big man, my husband, came and sprayed it with chemicals to stop it eating all our green leafy vegetables.
I was swept back to a time I’d sit in my driveway with my collection of caterpillars. I didn’t have brothers and sisters, so my caterpillars were pretty important to me. I let them crawl up my arm and I’d line them up and encourage them to race against each other. I would always win. I suppose I’d always lose too, but I choose to ignore that.
So, in an attempt to teach my youngest child the joys of caterpillars I reached into the spinach bush and scooped up the tiny caterpillar. I felt little again. I was so excited.
Immediately, my joy turned to loathing as the damn caterpillar did a huge green poo in the palm of my hand. Screaming, I dropped the caterpillar onto the ground where it lay motionless*. My two-year-old also stood there motionless with a look of terror on her face. Then she started crying.
For the next day, she would stop and scream if she saw anything that vaguely resembled a caterpillar. Pieces of fluff and sticks were suddenly objects to be avoided at all times. Then I knew I had to conquer my fear, so she could conquer the fear I put in her.
Then the time came and I saw another caterpillar. After a few glasses of wine, I reached out and scooped it into the palm of my hand. It crawled up my arm and my children squealed. Their squeals turned to coos and immediately I was transported back to that time when I was a long-limbed, olive-skinned girl, sitting in my bathers in the gravel playing with my caterpillars.
I passed the caterpillar to my eldest girl and she smiled the biggest smile and then the other kids smiled the biggest smiles and I knew at that moment I’d helped erase the fear from my youngest girl’s psyche.
And then it happened, the cute, little, furry caterpillar did a huge shit in her hand and she screamed throwing it into the garden. Her screams, were then echoed by her sisters and I knew my hard work had been erased.
*no caterpillars were killed in the writing of this blog post.