Being the introvert loner that I was, I looked to animals and stuffed toys for friendship. One spring I found the most elaborate caterpillar I had ever seen – The Live Oak Tussock Moth.
It reminded me of a groomed poodle with its short tufts of hair and tail-like poof. I decided to take him in and ensure his evolution into moth-hood. For this I needed a nest, which I made out of a Danish cookie tin, soil from my backyard and ripped leaves from local bushes. Ta-Da, Caterpillar Palace.
I started reading all the library books I could get my hands on to ensure I was knowledgeable and ready. This only made me more interested in other caterpillars and since most of them were wormy, spiky and gross, I decided to take in the cutest and furriest of caterpillars – The Salt Marsh.
After putting these two together in the Caterpillar Palace and confirming they would not harm each other, I started a collection. After a week, I had about 10 caterpillars, one for every human hair color from platinum blond to red heads to brunettes.
I decided to take the Caterpillar Palace to school. It was a big hit with half the class. The other half thought I was a creep for making pets out of the creatures they stomped on for fun while running laps during P.E. I dreaded P.E. since I spent the hour doing laps with tears running down my face while I tried to avoid the live caterpillars as well as the endless squished bodies and guts of the stomped ones. I was a bit of a sentimental and compassionate kid.
From the day of the caterpillar tin, I was known by my 4th grade class as “The Caterpillar Lady”. I’m not sure if that’s good or not, but I took my ‘pillars’ home and soon they all disappeared into the dirt. Within days almost all my caterpillars were gone, grown and flown. All but one, my poodle, who was eaten by red ants while he slept.