June 28, 2007
After the monster, 2003
I unearthed another video, taken during the summer of 2003, maybe a month after Schuyler was diagnosed with polymicrogyria. We drove up to the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens in Massachusetts and got away from our new monster for an afternoon.
But of course, that's not true, and it was especially untrue at the time, when every little thing in the world seemed to mock us and remind us of how things had chhanged. It was an important event, enough so that I wrote about it in the book.
The thing I remember the most about that trip was that it was the first time I can recall Julie laughing after we received Schuyler's diagnosis.
(excerpt from Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with his Wordless Daughter)
The three of us walked into the main conservatory room and stopped, holding our breaths. We were standing in a greenhouse, warm and full of plants and paths and a koi-filled pond with a burbling waterfall. Of course, there were butterflies, about four thousand of them. They flitted lazily through the air, landing on feeders or leaves or visitors. The visual effect was stunning. Taken one at a time, the butterflies were tranquil. When seen en masse, they became a frenzy of motion, completely silent but suggesting cacophony. We walked slowly down the paths, Julie and I silent in our thoughts as we had been for weeks, and Schuyler wide-eyed and breathless at the sight of so many butterflies.
I watched Julie carefully. I saw the sadness in her eyes beginning to melt away. She carried Schuyler and held her arm out, pointing at some of the impossibly big specimens and hoping one would take advantage of her offered hand and light there. I saw how in this place, maybe the most ethereal place we’d ever been, she wasn’t the mother of a broken child. Schuyler didn’t speak, but neither did we. Neither did anyone here.
We sat down on a bench and watched the butterflies swirl around us. One landed on Julie’s bare shoulder, and she laughed as its feet tickled her skin. A few minutes later, another landed on her forehead. Schuyler stayed still for as long as she could, but eventually she took to following them around as they flew lazily past, stalking one until another caught her attention.
When did I get so serious? I thought as I watched Schuyler and listened to Julie’s laugh. When did I turn into such a sad person?
I walked over to a little bronze fairy sculpture that held a feeder, consisting of a tiny glass bowl and a sponge soaked in sugar water. There were a few butterflies sitting on her hand, and as I held my camera out to try to get as close of a photo as I could, a giant Blue Morpho landed on the back of my hand. He was huge, and yet barely registered any weight at all. I held my breath as he slowly opened and closed his wings. A few seconds later, he took to the air.
I looked down to see Schuyler watching me, a curious little smile on her lips. Neither of us made a sound.