Butterfly, Children

They came in three big boxes: Stacks of books my sister-in-law Laura bought when her twins, Joseph and Isabelle, were young. Books she read to them. Books they read to her. Books my mother-in-law Lucy somehow had the presence of mind to save for my son Jude, who was born 10 days after Laura died, four years ago.

 

Shortly after their arrival, Aunt Laura’s books took priority over Jude’s most requested reads, including Dr. Seuss’ 60-page tongue twister Fox In Socks, which he always manages to find no matter how hard I try to hide it.

 

When my curious little chatterbox and I pile up on his big blue chair with a stack of books, he always asks the same four questions:

 

9354420What’s the name of the book?

Who wrote it?

What state does it come from?

Who gave it to me?

 

And few things make me happier than saying that his Aunt Laura sent him The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts. God, she’d love that.

 

One afternoon, as we were settling in for some pre-nap stories, Jude handed me Don’t Be Silly Mrs. Millie. It was different than the other board books and Sesame Street paperbacks—tall and thin with a plastic cover and an imprint on the inside from a library in northern California. When I flipped the cover open to find the state of origin, Laura’s signature scrawl jumped out at me instead.

 

To my sweet five-year-old daughter, Isabelle! Happy big 5 birthday!
You have grown into an amazing little lady. I love watching you grow
and look forward to the next five years.
I love you always, Momma.

P.S. Remember we read this book to your class—
Ms. Kenney and Ms. Barko. Purple room 4’s at Westminster, 2008

 

My brain did a fast rewind to our trip to Nashville a month before, when Lucy and I sat in her bonus room and went through boxes of books. Some went in the keeper pile. Others went in the Goodwill pile. Thank God this was a keeper.

 

Die laughing: My favorite picture of Laura, Isabelle and Joseph.

That’s Laura: Big shoes, big laugh, big heart.

Like Laura herself, Mrs. Millie is a grade school teacher. On page after page, she cracks her class up, telling the kids to hang up their “goats and bats” instead of their coats and hats and reminding them to eat their “quackers and parrots” instead of their crackers and carrots. Just when I thought Mrs. Millie was silly enough to get me through the entire book without blubbering, we got to the last page.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, Laura loved butterflies, and those of us who miss her use them to symbolize her since she died. The entire last page was covered in them.

 

When we’re ready to leave, our teacher goes to the door. “Butterfly, children.”

“No, Mrs. Millie,” we shout. “You don’t mean butterfly. You mean good-bye.”

Mrs. Millie laughs. We laugh too.

“Butterfly, Mrs. Millie. See you gator!”

 

And here come the waterworks.

 

If author Anne Lamott is right—and she usually is—there are three essential prayers: Help, Thanks and Wow. I spend a lot of my life wearing out the first one, but this book let me live between the last two for awhile. It had traveled from northern California to Tennessee to southern California and is headed back to Tennessee and into the hands of a young lady who’s going to appreciate this gift a lot more the second time around.

 

 

Comments

  1. Marye Pat Skinner says:

    Thanks, Danny. Laura was one of a kind and you showed that once again. Beautiful. Merry Christmas to your family.

  2. Sandy Koentop says:

    Love this story. It touches my heart. Thanks for sharing your heart. Blessings to you and your family.

  3. nancy murphy says:

    Simply beautiful! It never ceases to amaze me where and when Laura”s butterflies make an appearance.

  4. Lucy Bonvissuto says:

    As always Danny, you nailed ! When you asked me last nite if it would be alright to print it, I couldn’t find the words to tell you how much your writing means to me….. You have a way of capturing Laura’s spirit and letting people know what she was all about…… Thank you, thank you…..

  5. Teresa Zucchet says:

    Such a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing it with all of us and reminding us during this hectic time of year just how precious life and what is truly important.

  6. Katherine Dirga says:

    Could you give me some kind of “wear waterproof mascara” heads-up before these blog posts about Laura? Wadded up starbucks napkins to the rescue. Beautiful remembrance, thanks.

  7. cynthia tenisci says:

    Thanks Danny. Beautifully written. Just might want to buy that book for my 9 year grandson. So nice remembering Laura.

  8. What a great legacy. As long as books and butterflies take flight Laura’s presence will always in in the air. Nice job.

  9. Oh the waterworks!!! Why do I check my email so early in the morning?!? That was a good one though and a nice reminder of real priorities as I head out to do more Christmas errands today.

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