A Visit from a Beautiful Monarch Butterfly

It’s summer and memories from my childhood continue to scramble to the surface of my mind. We are at our cottage on Curran’s Lake in Quebec, Canada. Dad came up on the weekends and that meant my brother, sister, and I would be required to work outside with him, often gathering brush.

https://younglove-anadopteesmemoir.com/2019/07/24/a-surprise-bonfire/ https://younglove-anadopteesmemoir.com/2019/06/11/sunday-is-fathers-day/

Dad was a fussy taskmaster and that’s what made our lawn care so ironic and quite funny. God forbid the lawn would look manicured! Instead of mowing the lawn, Dad preferred the sickled look! When the grass reached eighteen inches or so, we’d receive our sickle and off we’d go. Yes, we were very young and a sickle has a very sharp, curved blade. I checked the Google definition: “a sickle is a hand tool and was used before machines for harvesting. The inside part of the curve is sharp, so the user can swing the blade against the crop’s base, catching it in the curve and slicing it.” Child’s play, right? Keep in mind, the lawnmower had already been invented! In the end, our lawn resembled a really bad haircut. But Dad was happy—he liked the cottagey, country look.

After swimming, Ian, Stephie, and I arranged our beach towels on the “lawn.” I can still see my towel draping over the uneven grass until I flopped down and flattened it out. I can’t say it was a ritual, but if memory serves me, we sunbathed after each swim, all summer long. I remember staring at the clouds and finding objects I loved.

A couple of days ago, all these years later, I was sitting out on our patio reflecting on summers at the cottage, Dad and his weekend chores, and beautiful clouds. As I sat there, an exquisite monarch butterfly, barely ten feet away, looked straight at me and opened its wings for a second or two and closed them. It kept opening and closing its wings as if communicating with me or at least attracting my attention, which indeed it did. I am thrilled to have seen a butterfly so colorful and gorgeous. No other interpretation of the event is necessary. However, there are numerous beliefs surrounding butterflies—they may represent a lost loved one or even our souls, positive change or freedom. Without sounding too far out there, I did feel my dad’s presence.

Japanese rice paper ~ butterfly greeting card

A Surprise Bonfire

It’s summer and the entire country is experiencing a heatwave. An image and a memory from my childhood pops into my head. In my Father’s Day post on June 11th, I talked about our summer cottage on Curran’s Lake, located about 50 miles from our home in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. My brother, sister, and I loved to play outside, especially on hot sunny days, and then swim in the lake to cool off.

Dad was always collecting dead brush around the cottage. He would build up a pile down by the lake. When he was satisfied that it was big enough, we’d have a bonfire. Bonfires were always a treat. Dad would whittle a stick for each of us and we would roast marshmallows. Everyone had a different technique and taste for the doneness! I liked to char it, layer by layer.

Another treat at the cottage was company! Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins added fun and excitement to our routines. Dad’s younger brother, our Uncle Tom, and his wife, Aunt Kay, were delightful company. Where Dad was the more serious type, Uncle Tom was hilarious and Aunt Kay’s laugh was truly infectious! Mom would laugh along with Aunt Kay—I can still hear them today.

Uncle Tom, Aunt Kay and a bonfire! Whoa, now that’s a memory! After roasting marshmallows, Dad decided it was time to burn our old red wooden canoe. We had a new canoe, and he wanted to get rid of the old one. His plan was to position one end of the canoe over the bonfire and move it along slowly, burning a few feet at a time. Uncle Tom helped lift the canoe onto the fire.

I remember the excitement as we all watched Dad’s ingenious strategy unfold. However, suddenly, his strategy took an unexpected turn. Flames moved down the canoe, slowly at first, and then with a wild WOOOOOOOSH from the inside to the outside, the entire canoe was engulfed in flames. We all jumped back—stunned, but no one was hurt. Apparently, the canoe wasn’t just made of wood–the tar used to seal and protect the wood was highly flammable. After the fire died down, Dad and Uncle Tom doused it with pails of water from the lake.

It’s fun to recollect and record precious memories. I hope you are enjoying your summer and have plenty of strategies to keep cool!

Handmade Greeting Card

My Story

Initially, I wanted to log the events that occurred in my search for the identity of my birthparents. I saved all my notes and correspondences. My search began in 1983–five years later, I learned the identity of my birthmother. A dear cousin asked if I would write about my search because she was doing a school project on adoption. With my notes and all, I wrote a diary for her–I call it my First Memoir.

During my long search for my birthfather, I resumed writing. But this time, I started at the very beginning. Young Love, An Adoptee’s Memoir describes the circumstances leading up to my adoption. It covers my childhood and young adulthood prior to the search for my original identity. As I began to recognize patterns of cause and effect, I knew that my early years were an important part of the story. I am reminded of an adoption agent in Montreal who said to me one day, “You are looking for your story.” And my search angel, Vicki, who said, “Tell your story, Bonnie.”

Last week, I wrote about becoming a United States citizen. Twice in my childhood, we moved from Canada to the United States. We spent a year in Baltimore when my dad was a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University. Two years later, we moved permanently to Amherst, Massachusetts, again for Dad’s work. Without a doubt, the effect of these moves was significant for each of us.

Are you ready for a challenge? As a result of the moves, I never went to 5th grade, I went to 6th grade twice, I never went to 8th grade, and I graduated at 17. My sister never went to 6th grade, went to 7th grade twice…you get the idea! I will try to explain with the underlying premise. Each time we moved, we were placed in the grade that was the number of years from graduation in Quebec. High school graduation in Quebec is after 11th grade, not 12th grade, as in the United States.

When we moved to Baltimore for a year, I went from 4th grade, which is 7 years from graduation in Quebec, to 6th grade which still put me 7 years from graduation. I joined my friends back in Quebec for 6th grade and 7th grade. The same thing happened in Massachusetts. I was placed in 9th grade. Our move was permanent and so I graduated at 17.

I understand the premise; however, I disagree with it. In my opinion, we should have stayed with our age groups. My 4th grade was delightful—I turned 10 in April. I think I was still climbing trees! Sixth grade in Baltimore was a culture shock! Then from 7th to 9th grade 2 years later was another shocker. My 7th grade had been self-contained. In Amherst, 9th grade was the last year of junior high. My classmates had been there for 2 years already. Suddenly I was trying not to get lost all day long. I remember, I kept leaving my purse in the last class and having to run back for it. Who knew I’d have to carry a purse?

Our adjustments were just that—we adjusted our ways and in the end, we had no regrets. In Baltimore, I met my friend, Katie. We became great buddies. When it was time to line up for lunch, one of us would sneak into the coatroom and then cut in line when the other went by. We were scolded a couple of times! Katie came to visit me for a week in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue the following summer. We kept up for years.

I have written a few times in this blog about my Amherst years—9th grade through college. I am thrilled that a number of my friends read my blog each week. We have reconnected and it is wonderful! I have long believed that even though one might say I should have been placed in 8th grade, I can’t imagine my life without my Amherst friends and all the fun we had. And so, the various causes and effects throughout my life shape my story. Young Love, An Adoptee’s Memoir starts in the beginning and ends–this year!

Grade 7
I’m second from the left.