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Caterpillars in Black Velvet

SPRING HAD COME. Busy insects scurried to and fro, gathering supplies for storage. Caterpillars emerged from their protective coverings, now multi-colored butterflies. The life-cycle of all living things, animal, insect, and plant, was beginning anew.

One cocoon remained intact; from thence came forth nothing. Had not this been a strong protection through those long winter months? Why leave it now? Why enter the world to fight for an existence? Here was food enough for another three months. Lie back; take it easy. You can always catch up to the others later, and your colors will be oh, so much prettier than their faded ones.

HER BROTHER WAS now a Harvard law student. It was time for her birth into society, Mother encouraged. This world to which previously she had been but a spectator was to unfold before her eyes. Laughter, gaiety, sparkling chandeliers, yellow organdies, and black taffetas beckoned her.

The night of the formal at the nearby military academy was but two weeks away when he asked her. Why he chose to invite her, she could not explain – she who had never before attended a dance, had never been to a party, who possessed not the gay, frivolous manner of other girls, who formulated an entirely different answer to the question, “What is your opinion of a good time?” Hadn’t he been mistaken in asking her?

He was a captain, and that was a ‘good catch’, Mother had said, so she must dress every bit the occasion. A black velvet gown, a black strapless velvet gown, would do the trick.

Since their early teens, other girls had been wearing strapless gowns, but when a lavender strapless caught her eye before the Senior Prom last year, Mother would hear nothing of it.

Truly, this was not of the ordinary run of evening dresses. It had been purchased at Gilbert’s, and carried an expensive price tag. That always pleased Mother. She liked to have her daughter ‘well-dressed,’ she told her friends. A full skirt of black velvet, pulled up here and there with tiny bows of pink, balancing with fluted pink netting around the bodice – but most of all, no straps; hair cut short, whisking away the shoulder-length curls completed the effect.

When her escort arrived, just as Mother predicted, he certainly appeared awed. He merely looked at her, and looked at her – and thus into the evening.

One general rule must be remembered in all formal dances: dress only for yourself and your escort. Every other girl present is too busy with self-admiration to acknowledge your attire, and the boys are preoccupied for at least half the evening with their own dates.

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IT WAS THE last week of July. A warm sunshine beating down on his home inspired the caterpillar to leave the cocoon and venture into the world.

His colors shone brightly in the noon-day sun, and the red, green, and yellow hues of his wings pointedly announced, “Look at me! See my new wings! They’re so beautiful!”

The July tourists had left, and the August tourists had not yet arrived. No other butterflies were in sight. Momentarily, the life-cycle of all living things paused.

On the steps of a frame porch sprawled a native, lazily whittling a piece of wood.

And he was a caterpillar fancier.

“Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and know what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” – Peter Marshall

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MY PRINTER CO-OPERATED. Standing Pat flows from the pen of Patricia J. Culley, Arlington 7, Virginia. Issue Number One is dated December 15, 1951.


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