At least, that's what he's convinced happened, and maybe he's right.
When I went to meet G on his way home from the bus stop this afternoon, he was about half-way between our house and the corner. He begged to walk back to the stop before going home. He wanted to save a caterpillar.
He and our neighbor's son (for whom I was responsible this afternoon, as his mom was late getting home) walked back to the corner and spotted the caterpillar. There he lay, motionless, in the middle of the sidewalk, having just been passed by nearly a dozen elementary kids who were let off the school bus just feet away. I nudged him. He didn't move. Our neighbor said he was dead. G said he was sleeping. I tried to pick him up, but he wasn't moving. We decided to go home.
After the neighbor boy was out of sight (his mom had returned by then) and before we could get inside, G started crying. Of course I knew why, but I asked anyway. "I wanted to save him!" he cried. We went inside, G wiped the tears from his eyes (to no end…they were still flowing), and I tried once more to explain why things have to die. G was heartbroken. "He didn't get to live to be a butterfly," he said through his crocodile tears. I just held him and tried to help him understand the best I could.
A few minutes later, I asked what it was that made him so sad. "I will never get to see him again," he said. I told him that I wished I knew what to say to make him feel better, but I didn't. But he had a solution. "I want to go take a picture of him."
I couldn't tell him no.
We returned to the bus stop, and G got his picture (above). We nudged the little critter again. This time he flinched. I nudged him again. He flinched again. Then he curled himself into a little ball. He was indeed alive.
I scooped him into my hand and then gave him to G. He was elated. The thing was still tightly balled, but G knew he was alive. "This is the first time I got to hold a caterpillar," he said. His smile returned.
We carefully escorted the caterpillar back to our yard, and G started saying his goodbyes. "Bye, little caterpillar," he said several times. He clearly did not want to let him go.
After several minutes of trying to decide where to let him down (not in the grass; G might step on him while he's playing soccer), we settled on sitting him down in the mulch that circled one of our trees in the front yard. We eventually got him off of G's hand (after uncurling and crawling around a while, he had "fallen asleep" and wouldn't budge) and gently placed him on the pavers/border by the tree. G watched him for a while, nudged him with sticks a few times, petted him and said goodbye.
After his snack and homework, G asked me, "What kind of animals eat caterpillars?" I told him I didn't know for sure, maybe birds. "I don't want that little thing to be eaten by a bird," he said. "Maybe nothing eats that."
Maybe, I replied.