Monday, January 9, 2012

The Butterfly Hunt: Searching for the Real Thing

A story I wrote for my daughters...

“Can you show me again how to draw the wings?” Cassie asked. Ava was the best artist in their grade -- maybe in the whole school -- and Cassie loved it when the two friends could spend time drawing together.

“Sure, Cassie. You do it like this.” Ava reached over, and with careful strokes of her hand she drew large, wide arcs. Soon, Cassie’s butterfly looked real enough to fly away.

“Ava, it’s beautiful! Now I want to color it like a real butterfly. Let’s go outside and try to find one to use as a model!”

Cassie ran to the door as Ava pushed away from the table, slowly guiding her wheelchair towards Cassie. She bumped over the door frame while Cassie held the door open.

“Alright, butterflies, here we come!” Cassie shouted, skipping into the backyard toward the rose bushes nearby. Ava's arms worked the wheels fast to keep up. Something colorful caught her eye.

“Cassie, look!” Ava shouted, pointing at a brilliant purple butterfly fluttering up toward a maple tree. “Did you see it? It was gorgeous.”

Cassie scratched her head. “I didn't see it, but I know how I can!” Cassie began scaling the wooden boards her father, years before, had nailed into the maple tree's trunk. The butterfly had flown right up into Cassie's favorite climbing tree.

Cassie stopped and turned around. “Aren't you coming?”

Ava had a worried look on her face.

“What's wrong?” Cassie asked.

“Don't you know?” Ava said slowly. “I can't climb trees. I can't walk. I can't run. This chair does the work for me, because my legs don't work like yours do.”

Cassie did know that Ava couldn't walk. She had known this ever since the two girls first met. But not until today had it really mattered.

Disappointed, Cassie jumped down. Her plan was ruined. She headed back to the house with Ava trailing behind her.

After dinner that night, Cassie's mom reached over and patted her hand.

“Cassie, will you tell me what's wrong? You've looked sad ever since Ava left. Did something happen?”

Cassie eyes stung with tears. “I think I need a new best friend,” she cried. “Ava is good at a lot of things, but not the things I like to do best. I like to jump and run and climb trees, but Ava can't do any of that. She can only sit in her chair.”

Mom squeezed Cassie's hand.

“I think a real friend is the kind you can share everything with,” Cassie said.

“You know,” Mom said, “you're right about a few things. Ava can't run. She can't climb trees. And she will probably never be able to do those things. But there's something Ava does better than many kids you know.”

“You mean drawing?” Cassie asked.

“No,” Mom said, “something even more wonderful than drawing. Ava loves people, even people who are a little bit different from her. She knows that a real friend cares about you, not because you’re perfect or just like her, but because you’re just like you.”

Cassie swallowed hard, and thought about what her mother said. An idea sprang into her mind.

“Then I want to be a real friend to Ava,” she said, standing up from the table. “But I'm going to need Dad's help.”

After school the next day, Cassie asked Ava to come over to her house. “I have a surprise,” she whispered.

When Ava arrived, Cassie held the backdoor open and led Ava straight to the climbing tree. “Let's hunt for some butterflies, okay?”

Ava looked worried. “But Cassie, what do you mean? I can't climb trees, remember?”

Suddenly, the two girls heard rustling leaves and a strange creaking sound. They looked up to see a wooden chair suspended by ropes, dangling from the branches of the tree. Little by little, the chair was lowered to the ground.

“Have a seat, my queen!” Cassie said, bowing grandly. She helped Ava into the chair. Then Daddy carefully pulled the ropes, lifting the chair off the ground and into the leafy branches. Cassie climbed the wooden steps and met Ava at the top.

“So what do you think?”

Ava looked thrilled. “I love it, Cassie! This is my first time to climb a tree. Now I know why you like it so much.” Then she paused and looked around.

“But Cassie,” she said quietly. “This must have taken so much work. Why did you go to so much trouble for me?”

Cassie looked down at her hands. “Because, Ava, everyone is different. Everyone has things they can and can’t do. Everyone has things they do well or not-so-well. But for real friends, the things you don’t share are not so important; what matters are the things you do share.”

Cassie looked up, and saw that Ava’s puzzled look had grown into a bright smile. It may even have been brighter than the fluttering purple wings the girls spied among the leaves that afternoon.

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