I remember it clearly. A warm pre-summer day at a lake near Ohio University where bad kids used to go to skip class or good kids, who waited for the weekend, would go to enjoy the sunshine with some friends. I think I was in the former group that particular day. Regardless, I was with my girlfriend, Christine, and we were laying out in the sun. Now, I generally don’t do this because I have been known to burst into flames when I’m outside – thank the ginger gods who built my breed with such fair skin and sunshiny hair – but for whatever reason, I was very tan (as tan as this redhead can get) that particular spring. And I was freaking skinny. I’d been going through some tough emotional times and I was the skinniest I had been since being a toddler.
I don’t remember what my friend and I were discussing but I remember that I was on the flip-side of a bad relationship. I was finally getting to the point where I was feeling confident again. I was concentrating on my internship – which I absolutely loved – and I was getting ready to graduate. As we were laying there in the sun, chatting and laughing, a butterfly landed right near my bellybutton. It sat there for a long time. Christine said: “It’s a sign.”
I don’t know what he was trying to show me so I’m not sure what “the sign” was. But it was fun to watch him crawl around. In all honestly, I never had such intimate contact with a butterfly before. They might have come near me in the past but they had never hung out for very long. This one seemed to want to stay. I put him on my finger. He hung out. I put him on my leg. He walked around. I put him on my shoulder. He parroted my voice. Just kidding. But I could move him wherever I wanted and he remained very compliant. Eventually he flitted away but it has remained a special story for Christine and me all these years. If anything, whenever I see a butterfly I’m reminded of her and what an important friend she’s been to me.
Isn’t it funny how we associate things with people in our lives? Whenever I see a large flock of birds hanging out on a wire I think of my ex-husband, Rob. It isn’t necessarily a good feeling because it makes me think that he’s going through a tough time. I see all those birds and after I get over the initial shock of thinking about Rob, I have to wonder if he’s okay. All of my reminders aren’t necessarily like this, most of them are very good. Whenever I see a penguin I think of Ben’s home/hospital teacher. She’s such a lovely person and was so good to my son, so seeing a penguin makes me happy. I think of my dad whenever I hear a plane flying overhead. My dad loves airplanes. He’s a pilot and used to do some pretty scary aerobatics (on purpose). One of my favorite activities when I’m around my dad is to watch him from the corner of my eye. If you watch him long enough you’ll catch him doing these aerobatic-like patterns with his hand. He is seemingly always thinking about it even if he’s unaware of what his hand is doing. It makes me smile because, while he is one of the most serious people I know, when he does that with his hand I know there’s a part of him that’s free. A child-like sense of wonder overcomes him when he’s around planes, so they make me happy, too.
Of course, music is probably the biggest supplier of memories. I can’t listen to the Beach Boys without thinking of my mom driving our gigantic green and white Econoline van on Girl Scout outings, crammed full of girls singing songs like “Good Vibrations.” My mom could not carry a tune but she wasn’t shy about it. She’d belt it out with us. All the girls wanted to ride in Pat’s big van – she was the cool mom. And, of course, she had the sweetest collection of 8-track tapes.
And then there are the items I hold most dear: An aspen leaf. A carved, wooden heart. Stationery with which to write a love note. It’s bittersweet to be reminded of past loves. I wouldn’t say that I’m good at being in love but when it’s true there’s nothing like it. I’ve been in true, do-stoopid-things kind of love twice. I married one (the bird guy) and then the other, well, he still occupies my heart. Both of these loves made my heart feel like the ingenue of a 1950’s-era big band musical.
Wouldn’t it be fun if we lived life like a musical? Actually, Madeline and I have this fun ritual where we’ll add “the musical” after something in a simple conversation. Here’s an example: Madeline says, “I hate going to school.” and then I say, “the musical.” That makes her laugh and then she forgets about hating school for a couple of minutes because she’s thinking about what “I Hate Going To School, The Musical” would look like from a production standpoint.
So, I invite you to try that today. I bet even the most tedious tasks will be lightened by the thoughts of putting a musical number to whatever you’re doing. For instance, We’re Going To Carve Pumpkins! The Musical! I can’t wait to see how that turns out. Anything can be made into a musical. And isn’t that how life should truly be?
Robin Reid gave me today’s word. The significance to her is beautiful for butterflies remind her of her sweet daughter who passed away a few years ago. Butterflies bring Robin comfort. Well, they do for me, too, dear Robin. You are one of my butterflies. When I see you I’m reminded that I have selfless friends who will drop everything and fly to New York on a moment’s notice to bring me some wine at the Ronald McDonald House. You’re excellent at bringing a bit of levity to My Crazy Life (the musical!) Thanks for being there for me, for making me laugh, for giving me encouragement when I just don’t feel like going on, for slapping me when I need it (the musical!) I sincerely appreciate all you add to my life. <3