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My first request to write a story. From, might I add, a very important person. My son. It is now my responsibility to document the life of ‘Mary’.... Here it goes....

Many months ago, I believe it was September, Alex burst in the front door. He had just walked home from school and was out of breath and excited. He was talking very fast and insisted that I come with him right away! He was trying to describe a caterpillar that he and a camp counselor discovered. ‘Huge’ was the word he used. I fumbled around to get my shoes on... the pressure of a babbling, very intense child seemed to handicap me. Finally we were out the door. We only had to walk 2 blocks. I thought we were going to have to search for this thing. Boy, was I wrong! There was no missing it. It was more than huge... it was HUGE!!!! Fatter and longer than my index finger! It was fluorescent green with a brown head. What a magnificent creature. I was so proud of Alex for picking an appropriate reason for elation.




I don’t know why, or how, it was not devoured by a bird. It was just a matter of time. I sent Alex home for a box, while I guarded our new friend. Besides, I figured running would work off some of that excitement and exuberance. Needless to say, he was back shortly. We picked it up with a stick, - no way I was touching it - it was so big it would surely require stitches to seal the hole, should it bite.

In the comfort of our yard, we watched it crawl and slink, inching along at its leisure. We did this for some time. We made the usual call to Daddy - who clearly did not get the scope of how large this thing was... We decided to put it in our screened bug cage to show him when he got home from work. Alex picked a few leaves to throw in for food. Off to do homework, and some, now necessary, Internet research ....

By the time Daddy got home the caterpillar had had enough ‘fun’ with us. It started building a cocoon with one of the leaves. Such a neat compact little home for such a tubby fellow. And so quickly, amazing for such a slow animal. Alex brought the caterpillar home around 3:30, Daddy got home around 6:30/7 o’clock. It was completely wrapped in less than 4 hours. Now we were the ones that had to slow down and be patient. I wondered how long it would take for the transformation?

This it too cool! Now we have another wonderful nature moment to witness. It stayed in the bug cage all winter. Frank insisted it was dead. I wasn’t sure. According to the information I found, it was a Polyphemus Moth. One of the largest moths in the United States. Also quite rare, even extinct in some areas. It’s no wonder... as a caterpillar, it was like a green neon light... and as a moth, the size of a small bird - less the nibble flying ability. It re-enters our world as a moth sometime in May. When May came and went, I feared Frank might be right. I even contemplated dissecting the cocoon to see what it looked like inside... got creeped out and set it aside till later. Then I forgot about it... until one day, make that June 16th 2006, we were standing in the driveway by the BBQ. It was about 6:30 and a HUGE moth flew out and near took Franks head off. At first we though it was a bird. Everyone let out a ‘Whoaaa?!’ in unison. I was instantly reminded of our cocoon and quickly ran to the bug cage. Sure enough our moth was there! Poor thing... it was way too big for its confines. We made an attempt to get it out. No luck. It’s big body couldn’t make it out the door! Frank ran to get the drill so he could disassemble the cage. The kids screamed for him to hurry... as if another few minutes was going to make or break the creature. Of course as luck would have it, one screw was rusted and gave us a hard time... finally it was open. We laid the cage on it side to let the moth come out on its own. Its wings had not yet fully opened. They were still all crumpled and folded in odd directions. Daddy thought it looked like an origami project gone bad. Alex and Charlee moaned in concern for the poor thing. Daddy insisted that ‘it just needed time to get blood into the vessels, the wings would straighten and be fine’. Colin came over to see what all the commotion was about. I wonder if the moth was as interested in the kids peering at it, as they were with it. Slowly the wings started to straighten. It would flex it wings testing to see if everything worked. It did. How beautiful it was. And HUGE. I guess I said that already.... But it is worth repeating. Larger than any butterfly I ever saw. Every time it moved, the kids would scream and jump with joy.


Alex and Mary


Needless to say, it was very hard to get the kids to come inside to get ready for bed. Daddy had to ‘crack the whip’... We would not allow it to be caged it overnight. We hoped it would be on its way... doing what it was meant to do.

The next morning Alex was up bright and early - dressed and out the door to look for his friend. He was very upset he couldn’t find it. He wanted to stay home so he could search for it. However, today was Field Day and he was torn on whether to stay home or go to school for the fun.... Mommy rules... off to school he went. Daddy was staying home so he could go to some of the events. He went into the backyard to water some plants... and almost stepped on the moth. It blended in with the dirt. Sadly... it was not looking too strong. We decided to put a grate over it to protect it from birds - hoping it would gather more strength later on - besides it was not supposed to be out during the day...

Alex was happy to hear that it was still here. He couldn’t wait to get home to see it again.

Unfortunately it was not a good prognosis. It should have flown off by now... it couldn’t even fly... sad. I fear another life lesson is pending...

I re-visited the Internet for information, hoping for some insight. Turns out that they do not eat or drink. In fact they do not have a mouth at all! They just transform to mate and lay eggs. As I looked at the photos on the site, I notice the eggs... these were the same things all over the bug cage... what I thought was moth poop, was eggs!!! I had visions of this poor thing conceiving thru the screen, much like some people do thru sheets... Could this be? Nevertheless, we have Polyphemus eggs to go with the Moth itself. Can we handle any more?!

We put the moth, now named ‘Mary Moth’ per Alex, in the garden. There was plenty for her to hide in and under. Sean came over to take some pictures. This had to be documented... There was a slew of kids gawking, in awe, and wonderment.

Our neighbor, Pat, suggested we retrieve it now and press it between the pages of a book. Being viewed as the cause of death of ‘Mary’ was more than I could bear. Even though it was obvious that it was imminent. I figured I would take the carcass and frame it later - much like they do at museums.

Well... that plan didn’t work. The next morning Alex ran outside to see if he could find the moth. He returned rather quickly with tears in his eyes. He was holding in his hand one velvety wing. I followed him outside to the spot he found it... only to find the rest of the wings crumpled and strewn over the ground.

He stomped and cried all over the yard. He dropped to his knees to carefully pick up all the remains of Mary. Only one wing was still flat, the rest showed the insults of attack. He carried them into the house and put them into an envelope and labeled it "Mary Moth. Thank you for gracing us with your presence. We will take care of your babies for you. Love, Alex and Charlee"

I tried to explain the circle of life... again. It seems to be a major topic of discussion in this house. "‘Mary’ did what she was supposed to do. Change, lay her eggs, and be food for someone else." And boy what a tasty treat she must have been. I shudder to think. Alex insisted that June 16 and 17th be day of remembrance. I said ‘OK’. He asked that we do what is necessary to help the babies survive. I said ‘OK’. He asked if we could bury her remains in the garden. I said ‘OK’. Charlee stood by his side, respectfully, the entire time. Any where Alex walked, Charlee followed. The two of them, in unison, paced the house trying to figure what to do.

They returned with a box. A HUGE box, way oversized for the small flat envelope. It was the plastic box I use for Charlee’s Barbie dolls - about 3 times the size of a large shoe box. This was monumental. I was surprised that Charlee relinquished this for burial purposes. They stood before me with droopy, puppy dog eyes and listened to me say.... ‘NO!’ I went into the drawer to get a plastic zip lock bag. Not good enough for Alex. He did not want her to be squished.

So there ‘Mary’ she sits... on our counter waiting for some form of action... I hope that feelings subside, time softens the pain, before the next life lesson shows up....

Besides we now have babies to focus on and raise... I hope my trees survive...