The old jogging stroller I push is awkward, the toddler in it is heavy, and my feet are slow and clumsy upon the pavement. I struggle to catch up with my son, moving one, then two telephone poles in front of me on his Mongoose bike. It was a present from his daddy and me for his eighth birthday, and it used to be wobbly underneath him, but today, on this bike ride, I notice between my own difficult breaths that he has grown into it over the past year. Where unsteadiness used to be present, there is now a sureness, almost a domination over the pedals as he thrusts them down and moves farther and farther ahead of me.
Still, I see a small falter in his balance when he stops suddenly and leans over to gaze at something on the side of the road. “Hey Mom! Come look!” he calls back to me, his hands tight around the handlebars to keep the heavy bike erect. I manage a nod, plodding forward until I catch up to him.
On the side of the road beside him lies a Monarch butterfly. Its legs are creamy white, its wings orange, yellow, black, and stiff. It is motionless in the dirt until I feel a breeze hit the back of my arms. Its wings flutter ever so slightly. “Isn’t he neat?” he says, smiling, still holding tightly to his bike. “But you can’t touch him because then he can’t fly.” I watch his smile fade at the thought.
I don’t want to tell him, but I do. “Sweetie, I think it’s dead already.”
“Aww.” He scrunches his eyes when he says this, an innocent sorrow rendered on his face that gives me pause.
“We could take him home,” I say, slowly, thinking of a way to mend his sadness. “We could press him. That way he stays perfect forever.” He nods, seemingly content with this suggestion. I pick the butterfly up gently and place it in the bottom of the stroller.
We continue on, him pedaling beside me as I jog. I tell him we can press the butterfly between the pages of a book to keep its wings intact. I do not know how this works exactly, only that I have heard of people doing such things before, have seen flowers flattened between plastic sheets, insects pressed under the glass of picture frames. For now, my son seems content that we will, somehow, find a way to keep the butterfly ageless and without flaw.