So it was the calm after the storm and before the storm…..

Hurricane Florence was passing by Raleigh and we were on the tail end of its fury.

In a random moment of calm – I stepped outside to get some air after two days in the house.

As I leaned on the banister of the porch – I thought about mom.  Missing her and musing about what she would have said about this storm… And then I saw a butterfly – it was black and blue with beautiful spots.  I recalled how Mom used to teach us about nature on a regular basis.  As a science teacher turned “stay-at-home” mom, we became her classroom to share the secrets of nature.  There was mommy-camp in the summer (complete with crafts) and we learned about the different types of butterflies, animals and plants.  She was my first STEM educator, mentor and coach!!


It’s funny what you remember when you are older.  While I do not know the exact difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk – we had both in upstate New York.  Each spring, Mom told us how Sammy Squirrel and Charlie Chipmunk were back and we would eagerly go outside and watch them hop from tree to tree.  In the winter, we were sad when they went away for a season.  However, we knew, according to Mom, that they would return to us in the spring, scurrying around with acorns to feed their families.


It was a story, I know that now. After all, how could the same squirrel and the same chipmunk come back to see us each year.  We didn’t care – we were just engulfed in the colorful stories that mom told.


So how about that butterfly?  In the middle of a windy morning – this butterfly flew very close to me.  Then in a rare event, one that had NEVER happened to me before, the butterfly landed on my arm.  My first response was, oh dear is this sanitary? My second response was, hello Mom. It was like she was there reminding me that she is always there and that her legacy in nature and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) lives in me.  I wanted to run in and get my phone and take a picture – then I realized that this was not for a Twitter feed or a Facebook post – it was for me!


Then, as quickly as the butterfly came to my arm – it was flying away.  First it landed on the bushes and then it flew up the side of the house. Then it was gone.  Shortly after that, the rain started again, softly at first and then harder, with an intensity fitting for a storm.  I thought, are those Mom’s tears from heaven, telling her daughter that she misses her?  Then I shed tears, real tears of sorrow mixed with joy in knowing that she is still with me. She will “return” to me regularly, just like Sammy squirrel did each year; in memories, inspirations, and my reflections on her resilience.   I can celebrate the natural environment that I live in, the one that Mom, the middle and high school biology teacher, introduced me to as a little girl.  As a STEM professional.. now it is my turn.. serving up a STEM legacy to the future… igniting a passion for science, one squirrel story at a time!