Golden Butterflies


Mama had a jewelry collection that, after her death, was bequeathed to the museum she frequented. I’d only learned that because the museum tracked me down to return it to me. After sixty years, they were shutting their doors, on account of losing most of their members to new generations more fond of experiencing Google’s instantaneous summaries, than physical movement, observation, thought, and touch. 

It surprised me, the history behind some of the jewels she’d been gifted, and later given away. Only two of her journals that I’d recovered mentioned gold and none mentioned jewelry. In one she’d written,

“𝐈 𝐡𝐨𝐩𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐚𝐬 𝐛𝐫𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐚𝐬 𝐠𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐡 𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐤𝐲, 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐦𝐲 𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐮𝐧𝐰𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐧’𝐬 𝐤𝐢𝐬𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐞𝐤.”

It was the only journal I’d come across where she’d referenced her mother, and where I’d felt a rust-colored sadness at not knowing either of them. Her Mama’s smile must have meant the world to her, that she found the sun’s ability to scatter gold, both her likeness and light to emulate.

Staring at my Mama’s words, looking at her jewelry, and thinking about gold, left me at a loss about what to plant to honor it all. Early one morning, I sat in my backyard with a cup of tea and stared out at my flower garden. It was contained, unlike all I’d planted for Mama, which was intended to grow wild and free.

A family of brown butterflies had visited my yellow flowers for one week straight, and that morning I couldn’t tear my eyes away from them, realizing they’d attached to only the yellow flowers when I had flowers of all colors to choose from.

Sometimes if you stare at something too long, it causes the eyes to water, so I turned to look at something else, but my eyes kept watering. The tears wouldn’t stop, cause my vision had turned the butterflies to gold, and the flowers to brown.

In my heart, that’s how I saw Mama, and her Mama, too, as flowers transformed to butterflies. I decided not to plant anything to honor their gold cause at that moment; it felt as if they’d planted themselves for me to see, as evidence of theirs.

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