Monday, December 20, 2021

Butterfly Wings in the Hall - A Short Story

There are butterfly wings in the hall. There’s glitter on the couch. A highway of unrolled wrapping paper winds throughout the house, strewn with tiny cars and mismatched pairs of socks. The Christmas tree is decorated haphazardly, candy canes hung in crowded clumps and glitter balls fastened to too-small branches. Dried specks of play-doh dot the carpet, coupled with stolen kitchen items like spatulas and kabob skewers. Couch pillows are thrown to the ground in an unceremonious heap. Tiny feet leap from cushion to cushion. “Look, mommy,” she says. “I made a house!” 

There are the days of endless energy and rainbow-colored art projects. Days of glue and pom-poms and popsicle sticks. There are the days of runny noses and tired eyes and long, steamy baths with overflowing bubbles. There are the days of dirt and grass and chasing cats and riding bikes. There are days of crying and throwing things and fighting. There are the days of endless pleas of, “Play with me, mommy!” Days of frustration and sadness and time slipped away in the thankless maw of career and school

She makes me food. A restauranter proudly serving her most loyal customer. “Coffee for you,” she says cheerfully. She pours me a cup. “It’s hot,” she warns. “Blow on it.” I do. She makes me chicken and beans and gives me a chocolate donut for dessert. “Wow,” I say. “This is really good.” She replies matter-of-factly, “It is.” 

When I make dinner, she brings a step stool into the kitchen. “I’m going to help you!” she exclaims. Her favorite phrase. 

“I want to do it,” she adds. “Let me do it. I want to help.” There is no task too daunting for her curious hands. “Put these potatoes in this bowl,” I tell her. 

“Of course!” she says. She looks for seasoning. She finds cinnamon and sugar. “This will be just perfect,” she tells me. 

“Potatoes and cinnamon,” I reply. “Interesting.” 

“Build a house with me,” she demands. Another favorite request. Building and fixing and figuring out how things work. She fits together a meticulous piece of construction. “It’s a carwash,” she says proudly. “Wow,” I tell her. “That is a great carwash. You are so amazing at building things!” “Yes,” she agrees. “I am.” 

We are arguing about something and Daddy turns to her and says, “Hey, I made you so that means I’m in charge.” She turns very serious, contemplating this. “No, daddy,” she replies, frowning. “God made me.” We both fall silent. What can you say to that? 

At night when we say goodnight she asks for books and songs and squishy hugs. Bedtime is a last-ditch effort to squeeze more awake-time out of the day, to delay the inevitable moment of turning off the lights and closing her eyes. “What song would you like me to sing tonight?” I ask. She holds up her hand. “A lot of songs,” she says. “This many.” I sing her Happy Trails and Away in a Manger. “Okay, goodnight,” I say. “I love you.” Sometimes, she says she loves me too. Sometimes she says she loves me most. Sometimes she doesn’t say anything at all. 

But, at the end of the day, when she is asleep and the house is quiet again and I’m left wading through a sea of toys and ponytails and princess dresses, I slip down the hall and I think about the silence and the void that it leaves. I think about the future and the impending quiet of my someday house, when butterfly wings and glitter trails are remnants of days past; vestiges of bouncing curls and late-night hugs and chubby fingers in cookie dough. I think about these things as I walk down the hall, and instead of picking up the butterfly wings, I leave them where they are and step around them. I want to remember them forever, I decide. I want them to stay just as they are, for as long as they can, until chubby fingers turn to slender hands and princess dresses turn to prom dresses. I want all of it, for as long as it lasts, for always.

little princess

A short story by Summer Lane. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce without express permission of the author. Sharing or quoting is permitted. Thank you. 

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