The Slow-Cooked Sentence


Rachael Conlin Levy

In which I compare the life stages of a caterpillar to the development of my children:

Embryo: (Greek meaning “that which grows,” “to swell, be full”). The earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division until birth or hatching.


Each time I discovered I was pregnant I cried.

The first time tears fell for happiness because I was pregnant and had proven the doctors wrong. The second time because I was stunned with the knowledge that I carried not one embryo, but two. The final tears were shed in sadness for the freedom I believed I’d lose with the arrival of yet another baby.

But you know, this final, tiny grub hasn’t been the Go-Directly-To-Jail card I feared he would be.

Larva: A young form of animal with indirect development, going through or undergoing metamorphosis.

Maniac Max

The door banged open and my 8-year-old son Max bounced into the kitchen, panting for a drink after speeding around the block on his Razor scooter. His body was steaming.

“What’s for lunch?” he asked.

“Max, you just finished breakfast a half-hour ago,” I replied, wiping the stove clean of globs of oatmeal.

He whined about hunger. I complained about how stinky he was.

“I took a bath last night,” he replied.

“Did you use soap?”

He shrugged, noncommittally.

“Smell your arm pits, Max,” I said. “You’ve got stink-waves.”

He shoved his nose into his pits, wrinkled his nose, and headed for the shower.

Pupa: The stage when an insect undergoes a complete metamorphosis. Different insects have different names for this period, such as chrysalis in butterflies and tumbler in mosquitoes.

Backseat conversation

My daughter, Chaja, pulled her shirt tightly across her chest and studied herself.

“When can I get a training bra?” she asked.

“When you need one,” I replied.

“But when did you get one?” she insisted.

The gears in my brain halt and grind backward, slowly, reluctantly, to seventh-grade gym class. I can see myself in the locker room, back hunched as I tried to slip on my gym shirt while not exposing my naked chest where small breasts were growing, untrained. The wheels in my mind squeak, turn again, and I remember boys running their hands down a girl’s back in search of the bra strap, grabbing hold of it and snapping, and the girl’s happily indignant squeal over being singled out, discovered. Memories shift again and focus on me and my mother in a dressing room, teaching me how to put on a bra: Hook it in the front, spin it around and then slip the straps on.

“Mom, Mom! How old were you when you got a training bra?”

My mind’s gears chugged forward.

“Twelve, maybe.”

She groaned because that is a year away.

Imago: The last stage of development of an insect. It’s sexually mature and, if it is a winged species, has functional wings. The imago is often referred to as the adult stage. The Latin plural of imago is imagines, and this is the term generally used by entomologists.

Sam at Longwood Gardens, Delaware

A long-ago conversation, remembered:

“I’m going to be Superman when I grow up,” 4-year-old Max said. “Then I’ll be able to fly. What are you going to be Sam?”

“I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Maybe a fireman,” said his twin, Sam. “Or maybe a fairy.”

To read others’ thoughts on the subject of adulthood, check out Sunday Scribblings.

8 responses to “Metamorphosis”

  1. anne says:

    Beautiful! Your slow-cooked sentences are rich and flavorful; I love the progression you described.

  2. c'est says:

    Beautiful! Your slow-cooked sentences are rich and flavorful; I love the progression you described.

  3. Rachael Levy says:

    Thank you! And may I encourage others to hop over to your blog where your take on "Sunday Scribblings: Adult" addresses the vulnerability of love.

  4. quin browne says:

    this was a delight.. and, gave me a name to present to my daughter for her child to be.

  5. Rachael Levy says:

    Thanks, Quin.

    "Chaja" or "Chaya" is the female form of the Hebrew word "Chiam" or life. While pregnant and living in Amsterdam, my husband and I saw the movie "Left Luggage," and the main character is a young woman named Chaja.

  6. anno says:

    I just finished writing about Julia Child (amongst other things), and couldn't resist the title of your blog. Glad I gave into the temptation: this is a gorgeous and loving portrait of unfolding & transformation.

  7. Dee Martin says:

    I loved this wonderful piece filled with bite sized jewels – now I'm trying to figure out what to call the stage where they enter college. Not sure a name has been invented for it yet 🙂

  8. […] and watched as it jerked about, then rolled itself into a moldy spiral bun. Exhausted, maybe. My own grub, worn out by his exertions, drew a ragged breath and curled into my arms, heavy and spent. I […]

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