So there I was seven years old, going to be eight in a few months. And there it was, the end of first grade school year. I was to play an important role in a show for the parents. I was to be a butterfly (of knowledge?) along with two other girls. We were all supposed to be a different color. Mine was yellow. I don’t recall what theirs was. Mama cut out my cardboard butterfly, and dad nailed that butterfly cut-out to a wooden stick (as instructed by the school). I was told to wear a yellow dress to match. So yellow butterfly I was, one of three, and I’d decided to be the shiniest, prettiest, flyest butterfly of all.
I carried my gauzy, shiny, pretty dress in a bag and changed into that dress before “the show”. And I was the only one! The mortification. The other girls were supposed to dress color-coordinated with their “wings”, but they hadn’t. So there was, in my yellow extravaganza, and there they were, in their dressy—but normal—end-of-school-year skirts and blouses. Those two girls, the other “butterflies”, they’d touch my dress’ fabric and sneer “so ugly, so kitschy, soo shiny…” You know the type of girl, we all had that type of girl (if you hadn’t, then you were that type of girl). Blonde and blue-eyed, with the richest daddies and the nicest ribbons in their hair… and the meanest words. Maya and Venetta. Why oh why do I still recall their names after all these years?
I stuck to my guns, wore my stupid, kitschy, ugly dress despite their sneers and despite my burning cheeks. The butterfly show over, then came the pictures. Oh, god. You could fry an egg on my cheeks, so red they had gotten.
After the class photo, everybody took a picture alone
I, on the podium before the blackboard. My knees knocking together… and a boy jumped out, stood next to me. He was older—eight yrs. old already for sure—And his name was Ivaylo. He hunched over a bit too much when he wrote, and he wrote with his left hand, which I found fascinating because he was the only one in a class of thirty children who did that. And he spoke with a stutter, which I found endearing, even more so because he wasn’t embarrassed by it. Ivaylo insisted he take a picture with me. Me and my gaudy, ugly… erm, pretty shiny, fancy yellow dress. No other girl, just me.
And not once, not twice but three times did he jump on stage to join me for a picture. Much to the chagrin of the photographer and much to the chuckling delight of many a parent. No other “butterfly” had a boy rushing to stand by their side. Just little yellow me.
Well, Ivaylo started a trend… “take a picture with the yellow butterfly”.
Yet all the butterflies, all the colors, fluttering in me were just for one boy, that first boy. A boy who would step up and stand his ground to the butterfly bullies, to the Venettas and Mayas of this world. My first crush, who protected my (figurative) gossamer wings from getting crushed.