Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

Butterflies Are Freed

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

After serving as foster father to four Painted Lady butterflies raised for his daughter's enjoyment, the author tries to let them go. But on a lovely summer night, two return to share a ballgame with an old buddy.


I let John, Paul, George and Ringo go this week. That's what I named four painted lady butterflies who burst forth from their little pupas in our apartment. Our little girl is enchanted by butterflies. She giggles when she spies them from a block away; she runs towards them in parks and on sidewalks. We get her butterfly books, kites, Band-Aids, tattoos and refrigerator magnets. We take her to the butterfly conservatory at the Museum of Natural History and she motions for the butterflies to light on my head or hand. I keep vowing to rub some rotten orange slices through my hair--the museum people say that smells like Kansas City barbecue to a butterfly--to make my head what amounts to a butterfly aircraft carrier deck. But my wife had a more grownup idea. She ordered butterfly larva and a hanging mesh sleeve so we could watch butterflies being born. The embryonic butterflies hung upside down for several days, but they didn't burst forth into full flutter until the morning my wife and child left on a trip for a few days. Suddenly, I was foster father to four butterflies.

I wanted to keep them around for a while, so I began to cut up slightly bad oranges and presented them on a plate I tucked inside their mesh sleeve. I loved watching them lower their proboscis like a tiny elephant's trunk to suck up that scrumptious rotten orange juice. When I ran short of oranges, I could only find some slightly moldering limes in the refrigerator, but I thought they might be too tart unless I made them daiquiris. So I bought fresh oranges and rolled them around on the floor. But then I read that painted ladies live only for a week or two. Suddenly it seemed wrong to make the lads from larva spend most of their lives cooped up in a mesh sleeve. They should spend those precious days out flapping, frolicking and delighting other children. So I took the sleeve out to our balcony and unzipped it to release the butterflies into the wild. City streets can be pretty wild. You know, if you love something, let it go.

When I got home late last night, I found two of them--I like to think Paul and John together again--hadn't gotten very far. They were perched on the balcony railing feasting on the rotten orange slices. Perhaps they'd learned it's a jungle out there. I got a cup of coffee and sat out there with them, opening the balcony door so we could hear the Red Sox and White Sox game from Boston, just a few friends sitting around nibbling, sipping, listening, comfortable in our shared silence, a guy and two friends who were passing through, passing the time on a lazy summer night.

(Soundbite of song)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) What do I do when my love is away? Does it worry you to be alone? How do I feel by the end of the day? Are you sad because you're on your own? No, I get by with a little help from my friends, get high with a little help from my friends, I'm going to try with a little help from my friends. Do you need anybody? I need somebody to love. Could it be anybody? I want somebody to love. Would you believe in our love at first sight? Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time. What do you see when you turn out the lights? I can't tell you, but I know it's mine. Oh, I get by...

SIMON: Oh, the time is 18 minutes past the hour.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small