I thought this would be a wonderful 1st story to share with you all. Along my own personal journey, I have discovered that happiness does not come from the way I look on the outside, but from the way I feel about myself on the inside. I was inspired to write this story one year while teaching a bilingual first grade class in a predominantly Hispanic, lower income school district, in Phoenix, AZ. That year I had the great opportunity and privilegde to meet and teach a wonderful child with special need named Yaneli. Yaneli was and is the true meaning of beauty, as well as my inspiration for this story.
Nelly’s Second Chance
(A story about believing in yourself)
Nelly Monarch was the youngest caterpillar in the Monarch family. She lived alone with her beautiful butterfly parents underneath a lush green leaf in a forest in Mexico. Nelly was a very curious, but unhappy caterpillar. She always wanted to know why things were the way they were, and she was constantly comparing herself to her beautiful parents. She would often ask her mom why she didn’t look like her.
She asked lots of other questions too, both at home and at school. Questions like; “Why does the sky change from blue to black?”
“Why is the sun hot in the day and where does it go at night?”
“Where does the moon come from and why does it change shapes?”
“Why am I hungry all of the time?”
“Why do I only eat leaves,” and her most repeated question was, and her most repeated question was, “Why aren’t I beautiful like you?”
Nelly’s mom would listen carefully to all of Nelly’s very interesting questions, and she would answer, “Dear, everything happens for a reason, and change will take place in its own good time.”
Nelly constantly crawled away from her mom feeling very confused and frustrated. At school Nelly would ask her teacher similar but different questions like, “Why do the birds sing, and why do they all have a different song?” “How do bees make honey?” “Why have some of the caterpillars in my class stopped coming to school?” “Why do some of them come back looking like you and my mom and dad,” and her most repeated question was, “Will I look like you and my parents one day, and if so WHEN?”
Her teacher’s response was always similar to her mom’s. She would say, “Everything has a purpose in this world, and things are the way they are meant to be, Nelly.” Blah, Blah, Blah is what Nelly would hear. She didn’t understand what her teacher and her mother were saying, and she didn’t have the patience to even try and understand. She was still very sad and unhappy. She just wanted to be beautiful and to fly like the rest of her family, and she wanted it NOW! Then she’d be happy.
That afternoon when Nelly got home from school she crawled around looking for her mom as fast as her little legs would take her and finally found her resting on one of the nearby sunflowers. She cuddled up into her favorite spot between her mom’s wings and began to cry.
“What’s wrong darling?” asked her mom. “Mom, please tell me when I’ll be beautiful like you. Tell me about this metamafasis thing that I keep hearing about from the other caterpillars.” Her mom smiled and said, “The word is metamorphosis honey and it means change or transformation.” Then Nelly’s mom went on to explain to her that soon when she was fat enough and ready, she would shed her outer layer of skin and form a chrysalis or a silky cocoon around her body. She would remain inside the chrysalis all safe and warm until the metamorphosis was complete and she was ready to come out.
“Yea, but what if I get scared in there?”
“How long will I have to be inside of the chrysalis, mom?” Nelly’s mom answered,
“Dear, it could take anywhere from two to three weeks. A very important change will be happening inside of the chrysalis, and when you’re ready to come out, you’ll know it. You can’t rush a metamorphosis Nelly, you’re just going to have to be patient and trust that you’ll know when the time is right to come out.”
Nelly was delighted to finally know the truth, and felt hopeful for the first time. Now all she had to do was come up with a plan to get her metamorphosis started sooner. She was sick of waiting and of feeling ugly as a caterpillar and again thought that if she could only be beautiful and fly, then everything would be better, and she’d be happy. Nelly’s plan was to eat as many leaves as she could as fast as she could so that her skin would shed and then she could start making her chrysalis, and that’s just what she did.
Her mother watched curiously from her sunflower as Nelly ate and ate and ate until she couldn’t eat anymore. Then as Nelly’s skin began to shed her mom watched as she helped to peel it off of her own body instead of letting it come off by itself. After that Nelly made a quick, but not very strong or sturdy chrysalis around her body.
Once she was inside, she closed her eyes, took a deep breathe, and smiled. She thought to herself, “Well all right! Now that wasn’t so hard, and it barely took any time at all!”
Nelly couldn’t believe how easy it was to do this metamorphosis thing. All the while Nelly’s mom rested and watched from her spot on the sunflower, for she knew what was going to happen next.
After what seemed liked a week, (but was really only two days), Nelly began feeling bored and very impatient. She decided that she would give it one more day in the chrysalis and then ready or not, she was coming out. A few minutes later Nelly changed her mind and started nibbling at her chrysalis, making a small hole. She wanted out NOW! After wiggling around for a while the hole grew and before she knew it she was breathing in the fresh air from outside. Coming from the chrysalis, Nelly was covered in this sticky, gooey, goopy stuff, so rather than fly away and show off her new look as she had hoped, Nelly fell heavily to the ground with a giant KERPLUNK!
For the first time she was able to look around and get her bearings. She looked left and then right and what she saw, at first, put a huge smile on her face. She had wings! And not just any wings, no no, no, she had two beautiful, orange, yellow, and black wings, just like her parents. She did it! She was finally beautiful! After admiring her new wings for a little while Nelly decided it was time to show herself off and fly. She began to flap her still sticky wings and just as she was beginning to get off of the ground, she felt something dragging her down from behind. She stopped, turned her head around and screamed AAHHHH!!!
“What’s that caterpillar body doing behind my wings?” “Is that me?” “Oh no, it didn’t work and now I’m a caterfly!!!” HELP SOMEONE, HELP!!! Then, not knowing what else to do, Nelly started to cry. She cried for a long time before her mother, who had been watching everything from the nearby sunflower, felt that it was time to go and comfort her daughter.
“Mom,” Nelly cried, “What have I done?” Nelly’s mom just held her and let her cry. Soon her crying slowed down, turned into heaving sobs, and finally it stopped altogether. “I just wanted to be beautiful mom.” “I thought that then I would finally be happy,” Nelly said. It pained Nelly’s mom to hear and see her daughter so sad and unhappy. “Nelly,” her mom said, “Don’t you know that you already are beautiful.”
“Being beautiful means so much more than how you look on the outside.” “Being kind, honest, loving and compassionate, smart, funny, helpful, and friendly is what makes someone beautiful and guess what honey; you already are all of those things.”
“Once you start believing in yourself Nelly, only then will you be happy.”
“Dear, even if your metamorphosis had worked, and you were the most beautiful butterfly in the forest, you’d still have been unhappy.”
After listening to her mother’s wise and soothing words, Nelly started to feel a little better. Then, forgetting everything, Nelly realized that she was starving! She hadn’t eaten for a whole week, (really only two days) and her mouth was watering just thinking about the leaves that she would soon be eating.
So Nelly flapped her wings in front, got her 12 little legs running from behind, went to the first tree she saw, and she began to eat. She continued eating right through the afternoon. She was still eating when the sun went down and when the sky started turning dark. She ate straight through the entire night, with a little help from the light of the full moon.
When the sun began to rise the next morning, Nelly felt much better. So she went home, said good morning to her mom and dad, grabbed a quick leaf for breakfast, and then she left for school.
By this time Nelly had almost forgotten about her metamorphosis incident and her caterfly body and was genuinely feeling good. She remembered the words her mom had used the day before to describe her, and she started to repeat them over and over to herself. Then before she knew it she actually started to believe them. She believed that she was kind, smart, loving, compassionate, honest, funny, helpful, and friendly, and that even as a caterfly, she was beautiful!
When Nelly got to school, all of her caterpillar and butterfly friends gathered around to listen to her metamorphosis disaster story. As Nelly watched her friends, all very absorbed in her story, she realized that they all still liked her and wanted to be around her even though she looked ridiculous and was a caterfly. Nelly had a great day at school and as she went home, stopping along the way to eat a leaf from each tree that she passed, she actually felt happy.
That night Nelly again couldn’t stop eating. She ate and ate until she couldn’t eat any more. Then an amazing thing began to happen, the caterpillar part of her body started shedding its skin. Nelly knew then that she was going to get a second chance to change. This time she let everything happen the way it was supposed to. She was not afraid. For the first time she also began to understand what her mom and teacher meant when they said that everything happens for a reason, and that change occurs when the time is right. She watched as her caterpillar body formed a beautiful green chrysalis with yellow spots around her entire caterfly self. Then Nelly closed her eyes and rested as her world went black.
Nelly didn’t know how long she had been inside of her chrysalis; all she knew was that it was time to come out. Once Nelly was completely out, she rested. She knew from her last experience that she wouldn’t be able to fly right away. She was going to have to wait for her gooey and sticky wings to dry first. Nelly waited patiently for them to dry, and when she finally felt ready, she flapped her wings, and began to fly. She felt very free and happy in the sky. Her mom and dad both watched from their sunflower and admired their lovely daughter. Nelly flew for a very long time, appreciating how beautiful everything was, and she too finally felt beautiful, both inside and out.
Copyright © 2005/08 Michelle Joy Rigberg
All Rights Reserved.