5.27.18: The Butterfly Merchants


I do want to tell this quick story from my childhood, as I was reminded of it recently and I usually completely forget it.

When I was really really young, my parents had a side-job importing framed art and other decorative pieces from Brazil—all made/decorated with butterfly wings.

So you’d have this big collage made up of butterflies—maybe of a parrot, or a toucan, or just an abstract pattern. And hundreds of butterfly wings must have been used to put these things together.

So the boxes would come in from Brazil—and they were actually huge wooden crates, like the one that held the leg-lamp in A Christmas Story. The crates, with the word “BRAZIL” stenciled on them, were nailed shut and my father would have to use a crow-bar to pry them open.

Then the house would be inundated with wood shavings, as well as stray butterfly wings (leaking from damaged items) in every color. The wings would be everywhere. Some of it was even fairly “powdered”—with a phosphorescent type of sheen. It got on feet and hands and faces.

These pieces were very pretty items until you wonder how exactly they were made.

And they were made, I imagine, by killing an awful lot of butterflies.

After a while, my parents decided to morph the giftware importing business into a jewelry importing business. They used a Egyptian motif as their logo—so I remember a bunch of marketing art with images of pharaohs and Nefertiti and ankhs and stuff like that. I’m not sure if the jewelry came from Egypt, or they were just riffing off the King Tut fad at the time (which I always connect with Steve Martin).

Point is…a lot of this stuff, it’s so far back in one’s memory that you might really forget it. But subconsciously, it’s all still there. It’s still vibrant.