Year of the Butterfly

Life goes on.. even when you lose someone you love, even when you don't know what to think, how to feel, how to act and what to say. Everything will be okay, is what people like to say, but it won't and you know it. All you can do is bury your grief and hide, and hope on the surface at least life will appear to be normal. Is there any hope?
This is a story of a young girl battling with the loss of her father. Accompany her on a journey of self-discovery and misadventure as she negotiates her way through bereavement and processes the unanswered questions. Along the way, there are dreams, visions and schemes, at least one golden urn and a kidnapping. Her story is about a metamorphosis from pain into renewal and growth. Her destination is a place of hope with a promise of healing.


8. A celebration of sorts

When I got home and saw Lisa, I pulled my ear 3 times and she tapped her chin 3 times. Everything was all right. Now I just had to find a hiding place for my butterfly story. Well, it isn't a story - just my answer to the question Aunty Mary wrote down on the paper. I ended up writing a whole page full! Strange how nice it felt, especially since I didn't read it after I finished. I just folded the paper and put it in my bag. I don't know why Aunty Mary told me to wait 2 weeks before I open and read it, but I guess I have to because she'll ask me if the experiment worked. It was funny how it made my head feel, I don't know, a little bit less busy, as if one of the voices in my head went onto that page. As usual Lisa wanted to know in detail what we did at Grandma's house, if I’d got anything. I told her about the meals we had - Grandma's lasagna, my favourite - and the trip to the bookstore. She’s jealous about that but she knows I’ll share my books with her when she's old enough to read them. I told her about the games we played and how we pushed the 2 beds in Aunty Mary's room together and we all slept together. We had hot chocolate in bed – just like a pyjama party! She was already planning her own sleepover at Grandma's for next weekend when I had to remind her that it's my birthday next week, so everyone will be coming to visit us. Then she complained to Mommy how unfair it was that I’d already started reading one of my birthday presents, so Mommy suggested that I read the book out loud to her. I don't mind doing that because I like reading out loud - we often do that at school. The only problem is some of the questions Lisa asks are so dumb! The book I’m reading now is about 2 boys who make friends with each other while they're playing beside a river. One of them is black and the other is white. The black boy is very nice but he’s a runaway and he gets into trouble; his friend tries to help him escape. Lisa kept asking me why such a nice boy is having such a hard time when he didn't do anything wrong. I finally asked Mommy to make her stop because she was driving me nuts. I tried to tell her it's just a story. She asked Mommy the same question and then Mommy said something strange. She told Lisa that it's not only bad people who suffer; sometimes good people suffer too. She didn't know what 'suffer' means but I know it means the same as having a really hard time. Mommy said it means to be in pain, so Lisa asked why that happens. Mommy sat quietly for a long while before she answered. "We all have things to learn but sometimes the only way we can learn is by suffering." Like fractions? What did the little black boy have to learn? And what about Daddy? No, that doesn't sound right to me. Lisa wasn't buying it either, so she's been pestering Mommy about this suffering business for the last 2 days. Why did it hurt so much when she fell off her bike the first time she rode on it? Well, that one's easy: Mommy told her it was because she was too stubborn to use the training wheels and she fell so that she could learn to listen to her parents. But then Lisa started asking more difficult questions, like why we had to lose Daddy's ashes, and much worse! Mommy told her last night that she's not allowed to ask any more questions like that. You can't blame Lisa for asking - I’d like to know the same things. I told her to ask the lady, Dr Lee, who talks to us about Daddy and stuff. Drive her crazy with questions for a change! Anyway, I’ve been reading more of the story and I can already see that if the black boy didn't have the trouble he was in, then he and the other boy would never have become such good friends and they never would've had such a cool adventure down the river together. And even though I felt sorry for the black boy at the beginning of the story, I’m a bit jealous of all the fun he's having out on the river, building rafts, fishing and sailing... So maybe after a while, his suffering went away and he got something good in its place.

Mm, 3 more sleeps before my birthday. It’s going to suck. Mommy’s got this party all planned out, but I wish she wouldn't make such a big deal about it. She says I’m being ungrateful but I just can't imagine having a birthday without Daddy. She knows it too but I guess she doesn't know what else to do. "We can't do nothing on your birthday, child! Don’t be silly. We must celebrate." Then I remembered what we saw on the Internet about the meaning of the butterfly. Celebration, wasn't it? My angel was giving me a message, and that is the only reason I’ve agreed to this party. I’ll do my best to pretend that I’m happy and that everything is great.

Everybody’s here: all my family, most of my friends and even Jacky and Jilly. They’ve brought their cousin with them - her name is Gretel. The house is full of people but I keep feeling irritated by the 3 of them. They giggle all the time over nonsense and won't stop asking me about my cousins. Suddenly Jacky and Jilly think it's cool that we're playing basketball outside. They don't actually want to play along; they just stand there clapping their hands every time either Jerry or Ben has the ball. If they weren't here, my birthday party would be almost perfect. Grandma made me my favourite lemon meringue and there's plenty of other yummy food and drink. Mommy gave me a new skirt and sweater as a present, so I thought I’d better wear that for my party. I think it made her happy that I chose to wear this instead of the new basketball shirt my cousins gave me. I think I made too much of a fuss about it and not enough fuss about the presents I got from Mommy and my sisters. I know I’m lucky that I got some nice things but I can't help it if my cousins know better than anyone else what I like best! Anyway, we've got music playing too and maybe later we'll go dancing in the garage. For now, I’m showing off a bit to my friends how good my cousins and I are at shooting hoops. They’re all oohing and aahing, so except for those 3 fools over there, I’m having a great time. Ow! "Hey, watch it!" I’ve just been knocked to the ground, on my bum. I hear Jacky and Jilly laughing, and one of them saying, "If it's too hot, get out of the kitchen!" Giggling fools. Oh no, I’ve got black skid marks on my brand-new skirt! Mommy’s going to kill me. I’d better sneak past her and go change my clothes before she sees I’ve ruined my birthday outfit... Um, let's see. What do I put on now?

I’ve changed my clothes and now I’m back outside with my friends. Jerry and Ben are now teaching some of them how to shoot hoops. Jada does these cute little jumps in the air like she's doing ballet! And Barry’s got the hiccups again from laughing at her. They’re calling us inside now. I guess it's time for my birthday cake. On each of our birthdays, Mommy always has a special cake made with our favourite flavour icing. Mine is chocolate. This time, she's got me a cake with 3 different kinds of chocolate icing on it. It looks delicious! I’m giving Mommy one of my biggest smiles and she's smiling back at me but I can see in her eyes, she's not happy. Oops. I forgot I’m wearing my new basketball shirt and jeans. At least she waits until I’m standing right next to her before she whispers in my ear, "Why did you change? You looked so pretty before!" All I can do is say sorry and smile at her some more. They’re starting to sing Happy Birthday to me now. They’re all looking at me while they sing but I’d bet none of them knows what I’m thinking right now. I’m thinking about the wish I’m going to make when I blow out my candles. Earlier this afternoon, when Gretel was introduced to Mommy and me, she asked me where my Daddy was. She saw only women around. Mommy just stood there looking at her and didn't say a word. I didn't bother answering her. I thanked her for my present and went to my room to put it away. I haven't seen a butterfly outside yet, so I haven't been able to make a wish, but I guess a birthday wish counts the same. I’m looking at the candles so hard, Mommy has to put her hand on my shoulder before I realise they've finished singing. It’s time to blow out my 12 candles. I close my eyes and think: I wish I could have my Daddy back. I’ve just blown them all out and everybody's clapping their hands, singing, "She's a jolly good fellow!" I’ve always wondered what that means. "Hey, Sporty Spice! Give us a smile! We can't have birthday photos of you with that bullfrog mouth. That’s better... And another one!" Uncle Ron's pulling funny faces to make me laugh. All that's done now, so all that's left of my birthday is more playing and more eating, later some dancing, and a giant slice of that triple chocolate birthday cake. Ha, ha! I think I’ll accidentally get some chocolate icing on Jacky’s pink dress and Jilly's white jeans. "Oops! Sorry!"

Everybody’s gone now except for Uncle Ron, Aunt Lonni and my cousins. They’re helping us clear up. Everybody said they had a good time and I have to say, I had fun too. I’m glad I listened to my guardian angel and decided to celebrate - I guess it beats moping around. Mmm, just one more slice of my cake... "When you've finished with the cake on your plate, don't forget to eat the bits on your cheeks and forehead." "Where? Uncle, stop messing with me!" "Have opened your present from me yet?" My presents – how could I forget! I go and get the rest of my presents. Lisa is helping me - I think she's more curious to see my presents than I am! I’ve got about 15 parcels and gift bags to go through. Wow! "What’s this one?" "Sis, give me a chance! You don't let me open your birthday presents – just wait." Everybody goes, "Wow! That’s nice," every time I open another one. I got clothes, a purse, a silver chain with my name on it, some nice smelling stuff, even a doll. "Why would anyone give me a doll?" "Hey, don’t be ungrateful. Besides, you're not too old for dolls." Jerry and Ben are laughing now. "I can't imagine you playing with a doll!" "Yeah! Why didn't they rather give you a soccer ball! Ha, ha, ha..." "Boys, don't be silly. She’s just a little girl and don't you forget it. And as far as I’m concerned, she's not allowed to grow up any more." Uncle is laughing too but pretends to scold them and sends them off to stack the patio chairs. "What’s this?" "Honey, don't pull your face like that! It’s not nice. It’s an embroidery set. You can sew pictures with needle and thread, and-- " "Do you know how to do this, Mommy?" "No, but there's always a first time." And so on it goes. Uncle Ron and Aunt Lonni got me a new cell phone. I don't think Mommy's too happy about it because she was going to get me one for Christmas but Uncle Ron says it's safer for me to have a phone. "Besides, there's a code you can punch into the phone to block it if you think she's using it too much or when she should be doing her schoolwork or something. I’ll show you. Don’t worry so much..." Uncle Ron pulls her aside so we can't hear what they're saying but I listen anyway. He’s saying something about Daddy wanting to get it for me, something, something. Whatever! I’m feeling very happy with what I've got. As soon as we're done here, I’m going to get Peggy to help me with this phone. I call her ‘super thumbs’ because she types the fastest messages on her phone ever.

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