Monday, November 5, 2012

Butterflies


Butterflies

There are moments throughout each life that become the defining ones.  We can all flip through the gilded pages of our individual histories and point to them much like Napoleon could point to Waterloo or St. Paul to Damascus and say, 
“There.  Right there.  I was a different person after that”. 
 Poor Burton was never the same from the fated hour he walked onto the set of Cleopatra and beheld Taylor, and at a seemingly innocuous autumn fete in a Liverpool churchyard, two teenage boys named Lennon and McCartney met for the first time and the whole of the world was changed. 
  Like the aforementioned examples, sometimes those moments radiate a historical importance that is vivid even to others.  The scope of their influence is so all-encompassing as to be impossible to deny.  But though other moments are smaller, insignificant to a wider audience, these are so often the ones that manage to hone our individual characters in the most decisive ways.  They make us who we are.  One of those moments happened to me when I was about seven years old and through it I learned that it’s possible to be right even when those with more volume and authority tell me I’m wrong.  I learned to question.  I learned to learn.  I learned to trust myself.

It had been a day much like any other of my childhood; one spent playing outside.  One of my little neighbours had shown up at some point with her four year old sister.  During the course of the afternoon, in the midst of exploring our gardens and yards, I chanced to explain to the littlest one how caterpillars turn into butterflies.  I cannot remember her reaction, but I suppose she was suitably impressed.  That particular bit of nature’s quirkiness has always fascinated me.  Later that evening came a loud rap on our front door.  My mother opened it to find a red-faced woman standing on our porch with her hands on her hips, her newly enlightened four year old standing behind her with her little facial features arranged in an expression reflective of her newest emotion, Scorn.  
The lady proceeded to proclaim her displeasure at my “tellin’ tales” to her little girl saying, 
“She’s gonna go to school now and repeat this stuff and everbody’s gonna think she’s nuts.
Tell your girl to stop tellin’ stories.”

Indignant, I wanted my mother to come to the defense of my credibility with a vengeance but, no doubt to her credit, she simply stood there and took it, realizing, even as I did myself, that intelligent argument was destined to be a futile exercise.  Though a lifetime ago, I can remember everything about that five minutes - from the way a setting sunbeam caught dust motes floating in the air to the cotton fabric of my mother’s shirtwaist dress.  I remember being stunned, as much by the lady’s ignorance as by the arrogance that accompanied it.   I have no doubt that this one moment churned and bubbled in the back of my mind, stirring up a concoction that has flowed through my veins ever since.  I still deplore that fatal mixture of ignorance and arrogance.

I was reminded of that long ago day this past week, en route to a beach weekend with friends. Driving through a tiny Alabama town around lunchtime, hungry, but reluctant to partake of the available offerings of fast food and donuts, I decided to stop into the local supermarket, The Piggly Wiggly, and pick up some yogurt and fruit.  Laying a carton of Greek yogurt and one perfectly ripe banana in front of the check out lady, I raised my eyes to meet an incredulous stare.
“You gonna make somethin’ with this?”, she asked.
A bit confused, I said, “Um, no.  This is just my lunch.”
“THIS is your lunch?”  She practically sneered.  
“Well, yes”, I meekly replied.
She looked at me as if she considered me utterly and completely ridiculous, then asked, 
“You ain’t gonna eat no real food?”.

Now I have to confess, it’s not often I find myself at a complete loss for words.  In fact, I’m usually the one blurting out something flip when the occasion definitely demands that I don’t.  In hindsight, I rather wish I had suggested that my seemingly lame choices for lunch constituted a much more nutritious meal than a basket of chicken nuggets, but at that moment, standing in the full heat of that girl’s supercilious stare, I had nothing.  I limped back to my car in stunned silence.  And when I reached my little green Fiat, I stared forlornly down to the spot on its back bumper where my two little Obama magnets, there when I went in, were now missing.
I still had nothing. 
 I drove for miles and miles with nothing but a dial tone in my head.
 But I have thought of butterflies all week. 
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I normally remove any comments that are ugly and upsetting for the simple reason that I do not wish to subject my readership to such acrimony. That is not what this blog is about. Upon reading through these, mostly anonymously written, examples this morning, however, I decided to leave them up.  They seemed a fitting coda to this particular post, which was never intended to be even remotely political.

50 comments:

  1. Any response to the related incidents would have been futile. Why does it take so many years to realize that it's best to just "leave it alone."

    And remember, we are fortunate to have been raised to question, to have manners, and to know when a response just isn't worth it. It just destroys our own inner peace and gets us worked up. Taking your Obama magnets was ignorant. It doesn't change a thing. Just makes someone a thief, that's all. Taking the high road is a good feeling.

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  2. It takes all kinds to make up this colourful world - some sparkle more than others.

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  3. As I said before, it's best to take the high road and keep ignorant comments, such as the previous one, to oneself.....and at least appear to be civilized and have manners.

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  4. While the childhood friend and her mother were certainly ignorant, and the cashier at the supermarket was rude as well as rather stupid . . . it is unrealistic of you to think that everyone shares your regard for Mr. Obama.

    I don't applaud the jerk who stole your magnets; that was uncalled for. But, as for arrogance, I'd say Mr. Obama has enough for us all. And, yes, I'm equally sure that Mr. Romney has never known a shortage of self-confidence.

    But I do wonder, often, how otherwise intelligent individuals can believe that Mr. Obama has an ounce of substance, to say nothing of integrity. He is,and sadly has always been, nothing more than our Celebrity in Chief.

    It pains me to disagree with you on that subject, as I have great regard for you in every other respect. I don't post this to anger you, to hurt you, or to debate you. I suppose I've just reached my limit of Obama support . . . from anyone.

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  5. I am sitting here at my desk, night has fallen and taken over, and I am smiling, dear Pamela, because I, too, am thinking of butterflies.

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  6. Any human being who would strap a carrier with a dog in it to the top of a car and drive for twelve hours does not have the sense, kindness, caring, concern, conscience and common-sense to be our Commander-in-Chief. A person who would do that is abusive....pure and simple.

    I don't want that person being in charge of this country.

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  7. Yup. It is just plain ignorant to do that to an innocent animal. The family pet, no less.

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  8. It shows a complete lack of integrity, in my opinion. Cruelty has no place in the oval office.

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  9. I am always amazed at the variety of people we meet in life. We are all different for a reason and a lesson is contained within....

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena
    2012 Artists Series

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  10. you have a wise mother!
    good taste in fruit & dairy! and presidents....

    (have ya seen the silly new john stamos commercial)? makes me want more greek yogurt....
    and, living in japan with my airforce husband we already voted :-) for our repeat president! so to this latest post of yours i say yes yes yes! and loose lips sink ships :-) lisa

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  11. Anon 11/2 1937 well said. You should count your blessings that you are able to take a road trip in your Fiat and not have to toil away for a living at Piggly Wiggly. When I moved back to the South I was amazed they were still in existence, usually in some small dying backroad town. I was also surpirsed at how parochial and ignorant it still was. Perhaps the thief who took your Obama magnets wanted them for him/herself, those small communities in the rural south are not usually big fans of Mr. Romney, who I do not condone putting the family pet in a carrier on the roof but at least he did not eat it nor did he sign off the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Unfortunately for your childhood neighbor, at some point she learned you told her the truth and had to live with the fact her mother was ignorant. Maybe the Piggly Wiggly cashier will expand her culinary horizons and try a healthy combination and you will have a changed a life with that short encounter:)

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  12. Pamela, I am always so grateful to be able to slide into your world for a while for it never fails to make me think and dream. Clearly, based on the strongly worded responses here, I am not exactly the only one in whom you light a spark! Thank you for all that you do and I am sending my heart-felt wishes for the success that you so deserve for your new book.

    At 43, I am still trying to learn that there are at times when reason is futile, perhaps it is the red-head in me that earnestly wants to make someone "understand" even when they aren't willing to. Hopefully, I will be able to recall this post the next time such a situation arises.

    With All of My Best Regards from Provence,
    Heather (and Ben!)

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  13. I do hope that your Obama magnets have gone to a good home Pamela.
    There is no accounting for some folks's eating habits - yoghourt and banana for me any day.

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  14. gosh - what a mixed bag of opinions!
    I have been on the receiving end of absurd comments, for the most part unsolicited, most of my life - perhaps this means I am nothing like the mainstream?
    [thank You, Lord]
    Would it be rude if we pointed out that we have not asked for a person's opinion?
    I took my 91 year old mother to vote early yesterday, and we both voted for four more years for our lovely smart decent president - I cannot allow myself to contemplate the alternate candidate without a shudder.
    Pamela....I give thanks for the beauty of a butterfly!
    all best, from Ft Worth
    Judy
    gjazaks@earthlink.net

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  15. Amazed at the uproar over dogs when no outrage is expressed over 4 lives being lost in Libya.

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  16. Dearest Pamela, how a small essay on the subject of ignorance can ignite such powerful outcries...
    I will refrain from giving my political opinion, for I do not think that is what it's all about....
    But I agree so fully with these defining moments.
    I had a few myself and some where rather dramatic and scarring, and took many years to work out the effects of it. It is wonderful that the small childhood incident powered such lasting impressions in your thinking!
    I always try to apply some humor when faced with certain ill willed or otherwise ignorant people, who try to undermine one's ideas or opinions. We cannot all feel and think alike, sometimes this is hard to stomach, but we need to acknowledge the fact!
    As for the stealing of your bumper stickers, just another small minded action without much effect at all....Let it go!
    Much love! Victoria

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  17. Mormans believe that if they're "really good," they will someday get their own planet. Really! Maybe Romney thinks this will be his? And I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I'll sell you.

    I wouldn't want anyone that believes in this dogma to be serving my country. We need someone who deals in reality. This is from someone who's been through the indoctrination and came out laughing.

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  18. Yes, like you, I'm always dumbstruck by the coupling of ignorance and arrogance. Having read Susan Cain's wonderful book "Quiet", I'm reminded how our culture believes and rewards those who speak confidently, even arrogantly. Certainly political ads bear this out. But then there are the quiet sensitive introverts who would be aghast at knowingly spouting something patently false as truth, or of giving an inconsidered response to a question, or of hammering someone with their unasked-for opinion.

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  19. Well...your little memoir opened a whole new can of worms, Pamela, my head has .....'Resistance is futile, resistance is futile' playing somewhere.

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  20. As I have said many times in the past year or so, it has gotten so you just cannot bring up the subject of politics in polite company. Things get out of hand really quick in this day and time on that subject, it's volatile, particularly on blogs, so it's best just to leave it alone, not even hint at it. :-)

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  21. i admire your mother and you for not raising to the bait. Have you seen the movie You Got Mail? She can never say the right nasty thing until she meets a nasty guy and then she regrets being able to snap at him. Moments like that make me fume. Nothing is worse than arrogance and ignorance except maybe knowledge with cruelty.

    On the topic of butterflies and natural cycles, you will love Barbara Kingsolvers latest novel that is coming out next week. I'll be reviewing it on Wednesday. I'm off now to finish it.

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  22. Ahh yes, well, there are those who remain unenlightened and apparently prefer to live their lives that way. Or perhaps I should have said some have not evolved?.... Four more years, please,.....Romney scares me with his "back to the Bush years" policies.

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  23. Way to say it, The Frankie. Took the words right out of my mouth. I think Rom is as crooked as Spiro Agnew and he looks like him too. Just had to say it.....just had to....

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  24. wow!
    have been busy ducking . . .
    trying to stay out of the line of fire here in the comments. LOL.
    have only one word. why?
    why do people reply anonymously?
    if you're strong enough to make your opinion public you ought to be strong enough to put your name to it! LOL.
    happy voting all.
    i was devastated and so saddened by the senseless libyan murders of our people.
    but that doesn't negate how i feel about a man who does that to his family's PET. just wrong.
    on every level. cold and cruel.
    sorry if that offends. it's just the way it is.
    hugs pamela,
    tammy j
    ps
    SO enjoying my book!!! thank you again for publishing such a beautiful little gem.

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  25. Dear Pamela,

    I can only hope that the small girl had a caterpillar/butterfly school project one day that required her mother to concede her ignorance.

    As for The Pig, they should be ashamed. It is an employee owned grocery store, after all. Would the cashier have had the same reaction if your lunch was processed meats and lard? Where was the southern hospitality?

    I can't forget the theft of your Obama magnets. The people who do such things are usually proponents of free speech unless the other side is talking.

    Hindsight usually gifts me with plenty of witty, if not snarky, comebacks. It never feels like a win to take the high road after being verbally attacked but I suppose 'arguing with a fool proves there are two'.

    Finally, thank you so much for your blog. It is always lovely to visit and see a new post, no matter the subject.

    Wishing you a happy election day from a fellow liberal and Obama fan.

    Cheers,
    Emily

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  26. Ha! I've gotten similar comments at the grocery store, and our Obama yard signs are disappearing at a quick rate around here. Whereas the Republican half of the country seems to think that the rest of us are socialists bent on ruining the country (why? why would we want to "ruin the country?"), our half just thinks that they would feel differently about our president if they just knew the REAL story, not the Fox News one. To them we are evil, and to us they are just a touch misinformed. At least that is how it feels to me. Sigh.

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  27. democrat-no
    republican-no
    christian-yes

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  28. Democrat - yes
    Republican - no
    Christian - yes

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  29. I'm wondering which candidate Edward supports? Let me guess.....hmmmm.

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  30. This is a lovely post and I think probably reminds many of us of similar encounters in our lives. Even as I have long passed the age where I should know better, I am still surprised when I see vitriolic or argumentative comments on a blog like this. What motivates those who disagree with your support for the president to tell you all about it I will never understand. The irony is, they have missed the point of your story. Insulting and lecturing others about their political beliefs is unbecoming, at the best of times.

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  31. All you posts are lovely.
    Happy Thanksgiving.
    Wonder why we lost touch.
    yvonne

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  32. Pamela, I'm shocked at the harshness and anger some commenters have spewed forth, and I bet you are, too. Soul sisters of that sadly uninformed and fearful mother you wrote about?

    Your posts are always lovely in a way that shows high regard for your topic and your readers. And usually this is reflected in the intelligent and kind comments you receive. I bet you had no idea how much fear and ugliness hovers over some keyboards. But there it is.
    We can only hope that they find a way to read with eyes and hearts actually open and perhaps understand that political opinion has about a five-minute shelf life anyway.

    I'm nearly always led to welcome reverie by your writings and wish everyone else would be as well.

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  33. I think I am speechless...in fact I know I am. A series of visuals just ran through my mind...I could hear and feel the words. I had a day like that yesterday Pamela...it is the frustration of figuring out what to do with it, the emotion...words can not describe...I was only glad to wake up today knowing I could leave yesterday behind.

    Thx..for the update on your posts...I have some catching up to do! Hooray!!

    Jeanne xx

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  34. Hello again,
    Yep, a double response due to Marsha's lovely mention of your blog and book but also because curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to read the rest of the comments. I have thought quite a bit about this post since I read it and have passed it on as well. Again, thank you,
    Holding my breath until tomorrow,
    Heather at Lost in Arles

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  35. We are watching election night coverage live here in Edinburgh. I am still trying to understand why one party opposes the human right to have universal health care.

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  36. Well..its great that its possible to comment Anonymous...thats for people who are stupid and ignorant...Great post Pamela..like always...and you proved a point...nothing changed since you were young..and you are as wise as your mother by keeping silent..Bravo..you are absolutely right!

    and now..REMOVE all the anonymous comments starting with this one..I want to be the one that makes the difference!!

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  37. My husband voted for Romney. I voted for Obama. He eats red meat and all manner of fried things. I tend toward vegetables and fruits. And yet after 28 years, we are still crazy about one another.

    “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
    Friedrich Nietzsche

    My Best,
    Jill




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  38. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
    Obama is the best for you and for me!

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  39. you foolish libs will rue the day you voted to go the socialist way.

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  40. I humbly submit that God and morals have been pushed out of America.

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  41. Perhaps your morals and your God have been pushed out but my God and my morals are still with me here in America.

    Very humbly,

    Anonymous (in a God-like and moral way)

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  42. You must endure the presence of a few caterpillars, I guess, if you wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.

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  43. Yes we did, again! Hugs all around, with a smile and a wave to the butterflies.
    - Julie

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  44. WOW..can not believe I just read all this...!!

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  45. I am actually surprised Mr and Mrs Anonymous ever read your blog.
    As for the butterfly story, I am quite sure I would have told the scientific truth. It is really quite amazing at the things people don't know. Even highly intelligent people don't always know certain things. I think if one speaks in a kindly way, not aggressively, it is okay to say what one feels if it is a provable truth not an opinion.
    I thought of you in the wee hours of this morning btw.

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  46. Dear Pamela,
    I just finished reading this post and its 46 comments and am stunned~~I didn't know people made ugly comments on your blog. I'm guessing that with all the substance you carry in your posts, you can bump into a few disagreements.
    My lovely book arrived yesterday, thank you very much :)
    Hugs,
    Becky

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  47. Oh Dear ! Where do these people come from ? Sadly, this is the downside of blogging. Don't let it bother you - although I know that's more easily said than done .

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  48. And to think that the mention of two pilfered magnets have caused such consternation. Tisk, tisk.





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I love to read your comments! Each and every one!