Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

Blue Star Voices

Helen Blake holds a butterfly at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy of Molly Blake

I make an annual pilgrimage to see friends and family over the summer. Part of this is because staying in Yuma, Arizona, all summer long is nearly unbearable for this red-head and her two fair-haired daughters. The other part has to do with simple geography. My husband and I are extremely thankful for our local and military friends, but reconnecting with high school buddies and college roomies, most of whom have returned to the Midwest, is a joy. It’s something I look forward to each year.

And this summer was no different. When we finally scheduled our summer junket, I texted my college friend Michelle and we arranged our meet. Despite the sweaty humid Chicago weather, we agreed to meet at the Chicago Botanic Gardens with our kids.

Located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, the 385-acre gardens are a massive respite replete with 2.5 million plants, 25 display gardens, and four natural areas---not to mention the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit, the Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America, and miles of meandering paths.

An emerald butterfly at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy of Molly Blake

The ooohs and ahhhs began almost immediately upon entering the lush campus. We had five children between us, as well as a lumbering two-seater jog stroller, purses, diaper bags, hats, sunscreen, Gatorade, and a camera. Off we went!

The first stop was the Model Railroad Garden that utterly fascinated Jack, my friend's son. He pointed at each train as they whizzed by, noting which ones looked like Thomas, and watched carefully as they snaked through the mini town. My girls were far more interested in the tiny towns: they spotted the Hollywood sign, Mount Rushmore, The White House, the Statue of Liberty, and others. After that, we ambled over to Spider Island via a spindly bridge. Finally, we made our way to the crown jewel of the visit: the butterfly exhibit.

My girls are fascinated with butterflies. If they happen to spy one fluttering by, they drop everything and run. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we are doing: the girls see the colorful creature and bam---off they go.

I don’t know what draws them to chase the delicate creatures and why it’s something that all kindergarten teachers cover. I mean, why don’t they cover the life cycle of a horny toad? Okay bad example…but the lessons have clearly sunk in as both can name the stages of growth from caterpillar to chrysalis and are getting pretty darn good at identifying different species. At this particular visit, it was all about the landing.

Leah Blake and her new butterfly friend. Photo courtesy of Molly Blake

“I want a butterfly to land on me,” said Leah, my five-year-old.

It was the first time in a long time that my busy little Leah stood still for more than 15 seconds. And voilà! A bright, blue-winged butterfly landed right on the tip of her finger. She was awe-struck.

And within a few minutes, Helen too, had a terrific looking white butterfly on her hand. And with that, the day was seared into their memory. Both girls were thrilled with their achievement---that’s how they saw the chance landing---and couldn’t wait to see the photos.

Meanwhile I was perfectly happy catching up with my dear friend amid the lovely flowers and smiling children.

I doubt that Michelle and I would have chosen the Botanic Gardens were it not for Blue Star Museums. I’m already looking forward to next year’s journey.

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