Monday, January 16, 2006

Butterfly's 75th Birthday Bash!

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It all started back in November, when we received an email from Lobsta Lady, a close friend of the winged one - Butterfly. Lobsta told me that in January Butterfly would be celebrating her 75th birthday - a truly remarkable milestone for an equally remarkable letterboxer.

"Let's have a party!" I said to Sue. And we quickly jotted down a few thoughts and emailed the idea to about 15 of Butterfly's closest friends. "Why don't we all carve a box and surprise her with them?" was what the jist of our email said. We'll call the series. "CT Loves Butterfly." Sue and I had just cancelled a date with Butterfly to go letterboxing and had rescheduled for sometime after the first of the year, when she would be back from her Hawaii trip. What a perfect pretense!

As the days passed, more and more ideas began to surface on our little Butterfly email list. And more and more letterboxers began to email me! "I heard you were having a surprise party for Butterfly. Do you mind if we come?" Our intent was to keep it small and not so intimidating but we had inadvertantly left out some of her very close friends. So, the list grew.

As the month passed, we received additional email! "We were out letterboxing today with so-and-so and heard about your surprise party for Butterfly. We would love to be included if you have room." So, the list grew.

We thought it might be fun to take Butterfly to Lenny & Joe's seafood restaurant, which was very close to Rocky Neck State Park - home of many letterboxes and where Sue & I were going to "letterbox" with Butterfly that assigned day and the rest of the guests would be waiting.

We then received an email from Jay Drew. "Have you thought of Flanders Fish Market? Butterfly knows the owner and loves the seafood there. They even have a nice back room where it would be more private." So, the list grew.

The week before the event we received more email. "Did you remember to invite so-and-so?" You guessed it - the list grew!

Finally the day arrived, Saturday, January 14 and boy, was it miserable! We had made the decision the night before via email that we had to do at least the 1 surprise letterbox - no matter how inclement the weather. Forecasters were predicting rain by the buckets with wind thrown in for good measure. Those of you unfamiliar with Rocky Neck should know that this beautiful state park rests along the ocean's edge. Ah - nothing like wind, rain and the violent sea for a great day out to surprise Butterfly!

This was the plan: SweetPea, one of Butterfly's closest companions, would plant a box in Rocky Neck somewhere near the large stone pavilion there so that everyone could remain hidden by the pavilion's high stone wall. Sue & I would hunt for this "new" letterbox with Butterfly that had mysteriously appeared on the "What's New" list that morning. SweetPea only plants mystery boxes so she called me Saturday morning to tell me where this box was to avoid any misunderstanding and to save time. We couldn't be floundering in the rain looking for this box while the rest of the partygoers were hiding!

SweetPea had placed a post-it note on the first page of the logbook that told Butterfly to look up. As Butterfly read that, I was to raise my arm so SweetPea and the gang of almost 30 well-wishers could then shout "Surprise!" and head down the steps to begin the festivities. Sounded great. I had the directions to the box, the rain had subsided and Butterfly, Sue & I found our way to Rocky Neck. As we walked through the parking lot I made visual note of the cars that I recognized. Looked like everyone had come! We kept Butterfly engaged by asking questions about her Hawaii trip, where one of the highlights involved sleeping on the beach New Year's Eve in her own 7 x 7 tent! This woman is amazing!

As we were reading the clues to this mystery box, I was brilliant! I knew where the location might be and Butterfly thought I was a genius, especially since we had only boxed at Rocky Neck one other time! Part of the clues talked about the "nth degree." SweetPea had previously told me that the box was at 230 degrees so I piped in "Oh - the nth degree? That's 230 degrees." Sue & Butterfly looked at me with wonder and amazement! They thought I had eaten my mental cheerios for the day! Sue looked at me with a new-found respect - but it wouldn't last!

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Are they here yet?

So we headed out and over the wall, I noticed an occasional head popping up! The natives were getting restless; we had to find the box before Butterfly saw the puppet show over the wall! The pressure was on! I couldn't really steer Butterfly and Sue right to the box - they had to flounder a little, right? Well, once I thought the time was nigh, I looked for the box - and couldn't find it!! I had the answers and still couldn't find the box! What the heck kind of letterboxer was I??? In my own defense, my mind was swimming with details of the party, the excitement of seeing months of planning come to fruition and I just wanted to find the box and get on with this party!

I had to resort to peeking around the wall and SweetPea pointed and whispered "It's over there!" And then I found the landmark and yelled, "I think I found it!" Sue & Butterfly came from another direction and were amazed with my box-finding prowess. Sue lovingly smiled at me and I rejoiced in the moment! I felt so bad that this would be short lived! Wait until they found out that I couldn't find the box even after I knew where it was and that I didn't really know what the "nth" degree was!!!

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We surprise the winged one!

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Butterfly tells the troups to come down

I handed the box to Butterfly and pointed to a picnic table set right at the foot of the wall behind which were some 30 guests. Once she opened the box and got to the post-it note on the first page of the logbook, I raised my arm triumphantly! SweetPea sounded her airhorn from on high and the group popped up from behind the wall and screamed "Surprise!!!"

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Butterfly stamps into her "Surprise!" box

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Part of the group

Butterfly screamed and smiled and yelled and smiled and screamed. She was amazed and touched at the same time. Here were 30 or so of her best friends who had braved the elements for a birthday surprise of which she hadn't a clue. After things calmed down, I made my way back to our car to pick up the commemorative clue books that I had produced with the clues to about 7 boxes that some of the participants had pre-hidden and emailed me so they would be ready for hunting on that day. After presenting Butterfly with the first copy, they were handed out and everyone hunted different boxes with the 4pm reservation time at Flanders Fish Market in the back of their minds. Butterfly asked everyone in attendance to stamp her copy of this booklet with their sig stamps as a special remembrance.

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Some of the guests at Flanders Fish Market

After an hour or so letterboxing, we made our way to Flanders Fish Market where we spent a few hours honoring a terrific lady. In our logbook to the box Sue & I gave Butterfly we noted that she was " . . . a friend, confidant, advisor, teacher and, at times, a mother."

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Deanne - the Lazy Letterboxer, Dave - the Letterboxing Ham & Jay Drew

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Butterfly reflects before cutting the cake

Those of you who don't know this woman are truly missing out on something. Butterfly was one of the first women to obtain a commercial pilot's license and she hid the fact that she was hearing impaired. She was instrumental in organizing and encouraging other women to learn to fly. This is only 1 facet of this multi-faceted CT jewel named Butterfly. Despite adversity and tough times in her life, she has almost a childlike excitement with her surroundings and greets each day with newfound hope. If you've ever boxed with her, you quickly learn about the names of wildflowers and trees and which are edible and which ones pop when you squeeze them! She is truly a CT treasure, which is the name Sue & I chose for our letterbox to her - "Butterfly; CT's Letterboxing Treasure."

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Butterfly reads a special message

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A butterfly-themed hat and t shirt for the winged one!

Butterfly received some wonderful gifts that day from her many friends - handmade logbooks, wonderfully carved stamps, books, garden wind chimes and more. But we think the most important gift was the time that we shared with her - honoring someone who gives so much but expects so little. A true letterboxing treasure and someone we are proud to call a friend.

Happy Birthday, Butterfly! May you have 75 more!