September 2018

The Butterfly Tattoo

The butterfly.

If you’ve seen my Instagram recently, you’ve seen this post (click here)!
My butterfly tattoo came about in roughlyyyyyy 2011, as a way to honor my Grandma (my person) and honor myself for hitting a weight loss goal. I wanted nothing more than to be able to display something to show the world that I had accomplished my weight loss with my #1 fan always by my side, in a small butterfly tattoo on my ankle. (that didn’t happen…)

I need to back up a little bit and explain things in a bit more detail, because there’s so much more to this story.

Grandma Colleen, I believe, is whole-heartedly my person. From me being two weeks old, until I was in about seventh grade, she was the one I spent all my time with. Every single day when I wasn’t in school, every single day before and after school once I was old enough, and a bunch of days in between. She was everything to me.

There are things that I remember all the time about her, and things that I always relive. Like, the way she’d wash her hair in the sink after her perm. And the way she’d let me wet my hair in the sink right after, so I could feel special too.

The way she had this sweet smelling potpourri in her bathroom, which was the smell that visited me a couple weeks ago in the car.

I loved that her couch was called a davenport. It was the place I’d always sit, and dig through those multi-types of chocolate boxes you get at Christmas.

Her hutch in the kitchen always had full sized candy bars for me, and a coke in the fridge, so I could “take a load off” and watch Judge Judy after a full day of elementary school.

I loved how she’d play hours of Yahtzee with me at her little brown kitchen table, and how the phone in her kitchen on the wall still had a cord like it was the early 80’s.

I remember that one time, we locked ourselves out after a trip to McDonalds and since it was the 90’s, I climbed through an unlocked window to save the day.

Her house had old wallpaper, she drove an old car, and I played with old toys, and I loved them more than anything modern day.

These were the things that I remember so vividly, and I cherish daily.

But, there was something else. It was something that Grandma Colleen always excelled in, perfected, and made her house look like a fairy tale. It was her garden. The side of her house was home to tomato plants, every single summer that I can remember. I’d get to pick them, and wash them, but I’d never want to eat them. She had so many bird feeders where little birds would go to eat, or to the bird bath to swim, and I’d feel like I was living in Snow White. She’d have hanging flowers, and bright colored planters, and her patio was always filled with color and that’s exactly what she brought to my childhood. Color.

I remember being outside, climbing her trees, playing school and house, and even one time I pretended I was a cow and ate some grass. (This is totally irrelevant to the story, but could explain a lot about me.) But, what I remember most were the hummingbirds and the butterflies.

The butterflies. I only always remember seeing them at her house, and little did I know, as they have visited me in my adult life, they were her.

When I was 18 years old, Grandma went home to be with God, and I can remember the pain that I felt. I regretted never going to see her and say goodbye, because she was in a nursing home and I couldn’t bring myself to see her anywhere other than her house. I remember for the first time in my life, that I felt empty. I had lost the person who shaped my entire childhood. The person who put the color inside of my world. I was open enrolled, so I didn’t live around a lot of my friends, and for years of my life- my friend was her.

So, when I started losing weight, I remember thinking that once I’d met my goal, I’d have transformed from the caterpillar I was- into a butterfly. I’d honor Grandma. I’d have to. Then I spent years on this weightloss journey, which turned into a roller coaster in my own body, which catapulted me into a relationship with Dylan, which piggybacked on my development of anxiety, and I never hit my goal.

I never stopped wanting that tattoo.

So, then like six years passed. In 2017, I was doing what I was supposed to. I just wasn’t happy. Then Dylan told me he was going to move us to Indianapolis. Or, that’s where his #1 choice was. I can remember thinking, “there’s literally less than nothing in Indianapolis that I want to be a part of, so jokes on YOU Dylan, cause never.” One day, I was walking Ellie outside of our apartment, and I was talking out loud to her, about if we she, our nine pound dog, thought we should move. The thought of my Grandma popped into my head, and I saw a butterfly right next to us. …and that’s when she started showing herself to me

Then, I asked her the next day, because I didn’t believe that everything was actually connected. Another butterfly, right outside our apartment waited to get into my view. So, I started challenging my Grandma I did it again, and again, and again for almost a week. Until one day, there were hundreds. Hundreds of butterflies lined the bushes and flowers outside of our apartment, and I knew that we needed to move to Indianapolis. I didn’t know why, but I knew we needed to.

So we did. And since about May, when I shut down and let life consume me, I’ve asked her questions. She’s always answered. Every single time. “Grandma, if this is going to happen, can I see three butterflies this week?” And she’d do it. “Grandma, you know what I’m thinking, is that right? Is it the right thing” There she was. The butterfly. It’s still crazy to me.

I went through a lot internally this summer. I did a lot alone this summer. I didn’t want to be around the people I was around, so I spent my time around her. She was there every single time. And on the days she couldn’t be, she sent my grandpa Jerry (who my mom mentioned when I was little, that she saw in a Dragonfly. Or, more so, that Dragonflies were signs from the angels that you needed to see). Even on one day, where I just felt below the lowest of the low. I kept thinking to myself, I just need to know that I’m going in the right direction in life. Inside my car, was a dragonfly. INSIDE. It was crazy, but it was nothing compared to this:

A month or so ago, I had been talking to her throughout the day. I wanted answers on seventeen million things swirling through my head. I got in the car to go home, and she was there. I smelled her bathroom. I smelled her. And then I smelled the air freshener in the car. My shirt. My hands. Nothing could produce the smell, except for the air around me. She was there. I had to pull into a gas station parking lot, because I was sobbing too hard to see the road. She was sick of sending butterflies, and she had come to answer the questions herself. I was dumbfounded.

Then, my mom came to visit, and I’d always wanted to get a tattoo with her, so we talked about it, and I begged her, and she said no, then yes, then no, so I begged her some more, and she fiiiiinally agreed. Grandpa, her guardian angel, in a tattoo of a dragonfly on her arm. Grandma, my person, in a tattoo of a butterfly on mine.

I never reached my weight loss goal. I’m still about 20 pounds away. But I transformed. This year, I’ve been transforming more than any other year of my life. It was time to let Grandma know that I’d been listening to everything she’s been sending to me, and that I’d continue to listen, because she always knew what she was talking about when she was on earth with me and she clearly still down. I’ve just been lucky to have spent so much of my life with my person, and been so lucky to have her with me each day.

One comment

  1. Jen, you have no idea how much your ongoing connection to my mom means to me. Your memories of her as “Grandma Colleen” are exactly the same as me for my “Mom.” My sister Carrie and I spend countless hours on the phone reminiscing about the same things…..the yard, the flowers, the tomatoes, the “secret” treats in the hutch….and so much more. She was more than a good mom to us…..she was the BEST mom. She made our house the one that all of the neighborhood kids (in my day, there were a lot!) wanted to hang out at. She was the fun mom….the “cool” mom. Treats galore, and always ready to give solid, confidential advice to any of my friends that asked for it. She wouldn’t even tell me their “secrets!” It was “none of my beeswax” as she often said to me. Jen, she loved you very much, and it is not surprising to me at all that she visits you often and is still very much a part of your life. If you ever want to call me or exchange emails about her and what an amazing woman she was/is…..or anything else…..please feel free to call or write me any time. 505-501-1479 is my phone number. Email address below. And again….thanks so much for sharing your memories. They give me both comfort and joy.

    Gail

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