I was invited this morning to read to a group of preschool children and their mothers at a weekly play group that initiated as a way for military moms to make connections. Last year, I brought my two littlest boys to the play group, and they loved running off steam those mornings in the kids’ gym. I used to work for Pam, who leads these sessions and always has such fun activities for the kids. We’d agreed earlier that I would read one of my personal favorites, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle. I once won a “first line” challenge through a children’s writers’ group. “In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.” From reading this so often through my years of early motherhood in particular, these words became emblazoned into my brain, and I was able to correctly identify the title of the book based on that first line. Its simplicity, beauty and profundity never cease to affect me in a positive way. One of the activities Pam organized to tie in with the caterpillar theme included making caterpillars out of a pipe cleaners, fuzzy balls and googly eyes. She also had a sensory tub full of squirmy bugs for the kids to enjoy, and a snack project — butterfly toast. The kids “painted” the toast with different colors (food coloring) after it was cut it half and the halves arranged to look like butterfly wings. Then, the “butterflies” were toasted and gobbled up. There were a few other projects, too, but my Nick was too busy reacquainting himself with the gym, zooming around on a red trike and playing basketball, to sit still for a project, so I missed those. We ended with the reading.
Here I am reading the page that is a prelude to the feast, that moment when the caterpillar becomes crazy-hungry and begins gorging on everything from a slice of cherry pie to a slice of Swiss cheese to a lollipop. In the end, a juicy green leaf is the ticket to ridding him of his resulting indigestion:
It was great to see all the mothers and their littles ones, and to be reminded, with the help of Eric Carle, that spring and rebirth are on their way. We may be cocoons now, but even this time of being wrapped in a drab, brown covering has a purpose. A few months down the line, around Easter, we will emerge, fluttering our new, delicate wings.