“Happy Birthday, Nana!”

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A story with Freddy Fit by Larissa Herzl.

The miraculous transformation

“Happy birthday, Nana!” says Freddy Fit, as he walks through the door with a big grin on his face and a colourful bouquet of meadow flowers in his hand. With his arms outstretched, he runs towards Nana, who has no chance of saying anything before Freddy Fit surprises her with a hearty hug. “They’re for you, hand-picked by your favourite grandson!” Freddy proudly declares as he holds the flowers in front of her nose. However, Nana’s nose seems to be just as surprised as the lady herself, as she suddenly sneezes loudly. “Ha-ha-ha-chooo!”, reverberates through the whole house, before Nana’s face slowly reappears behind the bouquet of flowers. With slightly reddened eyes and an itchy nose, she says: “Thank you Freddy, this is really… atishoo! … really adorable of you, we will put them right on the table in the garden.” She sharpens her lips and presses a thick smack on Freddy’s cheek before she takes a vase out of the closet and brings the bouquet outside with another unmistakable “atishoo!” through the patio door.
A little later, all the birthday guests sit around the old wooden table in the garden, which is covered with Nana’s best dishes and decorated with Freddy’s bouquet of flowers. In the middle stands Aunt Mandarina’s famous Sachertorte, and Clementinchen proudly hands Nana a pink bicycle bell. “So you don’t have to get upset anymore when cyclists mess around in front of you!” she explains, giggling. “Well, that’ll go perfectly with your pink bike, Nana. It’ll also be a gift for the others that you ring the bell instead of calling them slowpokes,” laughs Uncle Birnstingl. Nana casts an outraged glance at Uncle Birnstingl. “I would never put such words in my mouth,” she claims, and sounds fairly believable, “anyway, let’s try a piece of the delicious cake!”

Clementinchen emits a sharp scream. “Heeeeelp, a spoon worm!” she screeches and jumps up abruptly. “A spoon worm?” asks Uncle Birnstingl. “T-T-T-T-There, on the bo-bo-bouquet!”, Clementinchen points with a shaky finger at the inhabitant of a small nettle leaf that has strayed into the bouquet. Aunt Mandarina comes closer and clears it up. “But my dear, this is just a small, harmless caterpillar. One day, it will become a beautiful butterfly!” The small black caterpillar, with white dots and spikes all over its body, sits calmly on the nettle leaf and nibbles on it with great relish. Freddy Fit watches it and makes a thoughtful face: “How I would love to watch the little caterpillar transform itself!” he says. Clementinchen seems to have forgotten her initial scepticism, because she thinks the idea is great. “Oh yes, I want to take part in that too!” Uncle Birnstingl gets up and walks towards the house. “We’ll do it right away, come along!”
Clementinchen sticks her nose very close to the large glass in which the little caterpillar has found a new home. Together with Uncle Birnstingl, she takes soil from the garden and places it in the glass along with several nettle plants, while a few small branches are then placed in it to cover it with a tightly woven net. Clementinchen does not let the caterpillar out of sight until Aunt Mandarina urges her to leave. “But I have to stay with Caterpilli!” she says sadly. Freddy Fit manages to convince the adults for her to stay, as he might well need Clementinchen’s help. In addition, it would be good if the guest room is used again.
Together with the uncle and Nana, the two eagerly set up a table in the living room, which ends up resembling a science lab. Next to the large glass are books, magazines as well as a camera, a notepad and a pencil so that every step of the caterpillar’s development can be captured. Freddy and Clementinchen eagerly paint butterflies in a variety of colours and attach the drawings to the edge of the table with sticky tape. Both have chosen a favourite from their pictures that provides an idea of what the butterfly might look like.
The days go by and if you know Clementinchen, you would know that patience is not exactly a strength of hers. She spends a lot of time with friends from the neighbourhood and almost forgets about the caterpillar. Only when she learns from Freddy that Aunt Mandarina is planning her next visit does she recall the caterpillar again. She does not know that the caterpillar has now pupated and has been hanging upside down rigidly on one of the branches in the glass for some time. Freddy Fit has accurately documented every step and Uncle Birnstingl has already removed the net as a precaution.
Now Clementinchen wants to take the time to be alone with Caterpilli. Although she has her doubts about the story with the butterfly, she is still hoping for that miracle to happen. She creeps unnoticed into the living room, carefully takes the glass with both hands and disappears into the guest room on tiptoes. She carefully places the glass on the nightstand there and searches for the nettle leaves with her eyes. She pulls her eyebrows together, picks up the glass to get a different angle, turns it in her hands, but there is no sign of the caterpillar. She hears a frightened sound when her gaze falls on the missing net on the glass. “Raupi has escaped…”, she stutters. Worried, Clementinchen looks around the room. She searches the floor of the room, but the little caterpillar is nowhere to be seen. “Oh no,” she murmurs as she becomes more and more panicked and retraces the route she took with the glass. As the search remains unsuccessful, she sits desperately on her bed in the guest room and thinks about what to do next.

She is startled and frightened when the doorbell rings, but shortly afterwards a familiar, cheerful voice can be heard. “Cuckoo, hello, your favourite aunt is back! Come here, I have gifts!” Aunt Mandarina moves towards the kitchen with bags swinging from her arms, and she is greeted exuberantly by Freddy Fit, Uncle Birnstingl and Nana. Even before she can put down the bags, Clementinchen storms towards her, and she immediately buries herself in her mother’s dress to hide her tears. In desperation, she tells her story about the caterpillar she thought was lost and apologises to Freddy Fit. He tries to comfort Clementinchen and wants to explain to her what happened to the caterpillar. However, he hardly gets to speak as Clementinchen continues to assert animatedly that the caterpillar is no longer there. She grabs Freddy’s hand and drags him to the guest room, swinging open the door. Freddy Fit and Clementinchen remain petrified. “Caterpilli?” asks Clementinchen, stunned, in a low voice. In front of the two, a beautiful butterfly floats through the room, looking exactly like the one in Freddy’s drawing. “It’s beautiful!” marvels Freddy Fit. Now Clementinchen hears from Freddy about everything she missed in the last few days.
Behind them now come the remaining family members, who watch with their mouths open as the delicate creature floats through the air. Uncle Birnstingl immediately realises that it is a peacock butterfly and rushes back to the living room to get the camera. He captures it at exactly the right moment as the butterfly sits down on Clementinchen’s shoulder. “Kids, as beautiful as Caterpilli looks as a butterfly, I’m afraid you have to say goodbye to your little friend now,” says Nana after some time, giving Freddy and Clementinchen an encouraging look. The two look at each other, smile, nod, and Freddy Fit gently opens the window. “Come on, Caterpilli, time for you to enjoy the sun’s rays and the flower nectar,” he says. “Maybe we’ll see each other again someday, you’ll have to send us your flower meadow address!” whispers Clementinchen and waves to the butterfly. The butterfly flutters leisurely through the room and seems to put on one last artful dance for the family before disappearing through the window and into freedom.

Find out more about LARISSA HERZL

Download this story (in german)

Fotocredits: (c)unsplash, pixabay, pexels.com

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