First there were larvae. They came in a cup in an envelope in the mail. The cup was full of some sort of food, and the larvae ate it, night and day. The composition of what was in the cup slowly changed over a couple of weeks, until we saw less and less food, bigger and bigger caterpillars, and more and more pink balls of caterpillar poo. After weeks of eating, the caterpillars crawled to the top of the jar and created their chrysalides. We watched and waited, waited and watched, knowing it should take about a week for the final metamorphoses. Today, our butterflies emerged: six painted ladies, with wings of orange and black and white. I even got to witness one emergence from the very start to the very finish, how the butterfly poked its head out of its chrysalis, then did a sort of sit up to get the rest of her body out. Her wings were stunted and dark and wrinkly, but as she filled them with blood, as meconium (yes, meconium! bloody butterfly meconium!) dropped out of her, she grew wide and lovely.
Ever read When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd? It’s about the author’s spiritual crisis at mid-life. At the beginning, deep in distress over a seeming loss of faith, she snagged a cocoon she saw on a nearby tree and brought it to her home. She kept referring back to that cocoon throughout the novel, making it a metaphor for the spiritual catharsis she was experiencing. Eventually the butterfly emerged, and the author went from faithless to faithful again.
You know what I was thinking the whole time I watched our beautiful butterflies emerging? Despite my own spiritual troubles, I wasn’t thinking about metamorphoses. I was realizing it took LESS time for Sue Monk Kidd to find God again, took less time for freaking larvae to pupate, grow wings, triple-double-quadruple themselves in size, and transform into completely new incarnations of themselves than it is taking for our baby’s top teeth to cut through. ‘Cause I’m glass half full like that, babies. Seriously, the little dude began teething his first top four teeth around the time those larvae arrived. I’ve seen the blisters and the little white spots for weeks, gone through a fair share of Orajel and Tylenol and mad crying at odd hours of the night, but only one tooth has busted through, and just this morning at that.
Other things that have taken less time than this teething episode include: the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the entire Greco-Turkish War, the papal conclave’s full deliberation over the most recent papal successor, and the writing of Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road. Oh, and the construction of ancient Rome. Well, never mind that last one. It just feels that way. We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day. I guess toothy smiles aren’t either.