On the day I was changing the bed linens, I came across a set of butterfly pattern sheets that had migrated to the back of the shelf in the closet. The pillow cases were long gone and the elastic on the fitted sheet had lost its resilience, yet I felt compelled to pull them out and maneuver them onto the mattress.
I felt a little flutter in my chest as I went about this task. My mother had gifted two identical sets of these new queen-size butterfly sheets to me back in perhaps the nineteen-seventies or early eighties. I think they might have come from a store called Caldor or a similar department store that was prevalent back then. At the time my then-husband and I had been so monetarily challenged that a gift of sheets like this was an extravagance and a luxury, and yet two identical sets seemed silly to me. Even my mother had remarked, “I don’t know why I bought you two of the same”. In retrospect I do know why though. She wanted to make sure I would still have something nice that would last.
Given that we didn’t need two sets and were not in the best financial straits at the time, when a holiday came around and it was time to give presents, I (guiltily) re-gifted one set of the new ones to my sister-in-law.
I used my own set of sheets for decades. They were of the softest cotton, made even softer over time. My new babies lay upon those sheets. I have dreamed and cried into those sheets, and there was a comfort in the fact that they had been given to me by my mother, a connection to her and typical in the way I hold on to many things. As the years went by and the sheets started to wear out, I realized why she gave me two sets and regretted not keeping the second as a spare. One more piece of mom gone. I could not part with them or use them for rags. They made their way out of sight but not totally forgotten.
So there I was, putting those butterfly sheets on my bed decades later. While carefully folding back the top sheet I wept silently for my mother, who has been gone many years. Back in the day she would have ironed those sheets, which would have added a further level of comfort and bliss – there is something wonderful about sleeping in fresh, clean, ironed sheets which I have not experienced since childhood.
I snapped a photo of my butterfly sheets, which I imagine anyone old enough to have had them will recognize, as they were a popular pattern at the time. I even asked my sister-in-law if she still had hers in hopes of coercing them back to me, but of course that was silly as it’s been ages ago and she didn’t have them anymore. And that was to be the end of my blog post, which was going to focus not only upon my compulsion for holding on to things, but for the appreciation of what you have at the time.
But during the week I slept in those butterfly sheets and the time it came to rotate to another clean set on the bed, I didn’t get around to posting because two very powerful things occurred in my sphere. The first was the unexpected death of a very close, extremely dear friend who could rank up right up there with being called a brother. He was someone who shared a home with us back in the day those butterfly sheets were on the bed; someone who shared those meandering, colorful, free days of youth when we let the wind take us where it would before the colors faded from our wings and the spring flowers gave way to the autumn of our lives.
A few days following this incomprehensible loss, I watched my second daughter deliver my first granddaughter into the world, emerging wet and shiny and new like a magical butterfly from her cocoon. Circle of life and all that.
The metaphors concerning butterflies and the elusiveness, fragility and brevity of life have been flitting through my mind and heart.