Michelle G.


Red, orange, purple, gold...I was caught in a riot of shifting colors. I pranced up and down the hill, my palms extended to the moving collage of butterflies that surrounded me. “Would you like to learn how to catch one?” Grandfather asked, holding out a glass jar. “Yes!” I cheered, his huge calloused fingers closing my chubby five-year-old hands around it carefully.

红色、橙色、紫色、金色......我陷入了五光十色的变幻之中。我在山坡上蹦蹦跳跳,手掌伸向围绕在我周围的蝴蝶拼贴画。这时候,祖父突然伸出一个玻璃瓶问道:“你想学习如何捕捉蝴蝶吗?”我欢呼着回答说:“好啊!” 接着,他那长满老茧的大手小心翼翼地将我那五岁胖乎乎的小手合拢。

Grandfather put his finger to his lips, and I obliged as I watched him deftly maneuver his net. He caught one marvelous butterfly perched on a flower, and I clutched the open jar in anticipation as he slid the butterfly inside. It quivered and fell to the bottom of the jar, and I gasped. It struggled until its wings, ablaze in a glory of orange and red, quivered to a stop. I watched, wide-eyed, as it stopped moving. “Grandpa! What’s happening?”


My grandfather had always had a collection of butterflies, but that was the first time I saw him catch one. After witnessing the first butterfly die, I begged him to keep them alive; I even secretly let some of them go. Therefore, to compromise, he began carrying a special jar for the days I accompanied him on his outings, a jar to keep the living butterflies. But the creatures we caught always weakened and died after a few days in captivity, no matter how tenderly I fed and cared for them. Grandfather took me aside and explained that the lifespan of an adult butterfly was very short. They were not meant to live forever: their purpose was to flame brilliantly and then fade away. Thus, his art serves as a memory of their beauty, an acknowledgement of nature’s ephemeral splendor.


But nothing could stay the same. I moved to America and as the weekly excursions to the mountainside ended, so did our lessons in nature and science. Although six thousand miles away, I would never forget how my grandpa’s wrinkles creased when he smiled or how he always smelled like mountain flowers.


As I grew older and slowly understood how Grandfather lived his life, I began to follow in his footsteps. He protected nature’s beauty from decay with his art, and in the same way, I tried to protect my relationships, my artwork, and my memories. I surrounded myself with the journals we wrote together, but this time I recorded my own accomplishments, hoping to one day show him what I had done. I recorded everything, from the first time I spent a week away from home to the time I received a gold medal at the top of the podium at the California Tae Kwon Do Competition. I filled my new home in America with the photographs from my childhood and began to create art of my own. Instead of catching butterflies like my grandpa, I began experimenting with butterfly wing art as my way of preserving nature’s beauty. Soon my home in America became a replica of my home in China, filled from wall to wall with pictures and memories.


Nine long years passed before I was reunited with him. The robust man who once chased me up the hillside had developed arthritis, and his thick black hair had turned white. The grandfather I saw now was not the one I knew; we had no hobby and no history in common, and he became another adult, distant and unapproachable. With this, I forgot all about the journals and photos that I had kept and wanted to share with him.


After weeks of avoidance, I gathered my courage and sat with him once again. This time, I carried a large, leather-bound book with me. “Grandfather,” I began, and held out the first of my many journals. These were my early days in America, chronicled through pictures, art, and neatly-printed English. On the last page was a photograph of me and my grandfather, a net in his hand and a jar in mine. As I saw our faces, shining with proud smiles, I began to remember our days on the mountainside, catching butterflies and halting nature’s eventual decay.


My grandfather has weakened over the years, but he is still the wise man who raised me and taught me the value of capturing the beauty of life. Although he has grown old, I have grown up. His legs are weak, but his hands are still as gentle as ever. Therefore, this time, it will be different. This time, I will no longer recollect memories, but create new ones.












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