The word cocoon originates from the 17th century: from the French word cocon, from the medieval Provençal coucoun ‘eggshell, cocoon’, diminutive of coca ‘shell’. The verb dates from the mid 19th century.

Most of us associate the word with the silky covering spun by caterpillars to wrap themselves in while they gradually turn into butterflies.

Today, I’ve decided to share a story on the theme of cocooning, that I wrote for my local writers group which is Longford Writers group, for our online meeting. As you will see, the link with the ‘eggshell’ origin of the word (see above) is connected to this story…

“I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re ok.”

Humphrey Littleton was totally fed-up. Okay, he was seventy-two, but he didn’t consider himself old and frail. The government wanted all the over 70’s to ‘cocoon.’ “I’m no damn butterfly,” he said out loud. Humphrey understood about protecting the elderly during this pandemic, but he reckoned he was healthier and fitter than many half his age. Why couldn’t he just do social distancing?

He had always been a bit of a rebel. He had been a teenager in the ‘60s and that was a time of protests and new freedoms; his generation had talked about love and peace and fought against war and authority. Was he going to lie down now and just accept what the authorities told him to do?

What was that? A pinging musical sound was coming from his iPad. It would be his daughter Lily with his granddaughter Beattie, calling on Skype. Humphrey rushed into the sitting-room to answer the call. He loved being able to see Lily and Beattie, and Lily’s husband Ned, (when he was there).  They lived in Australia and any time spent with them online was precious.

              “Hi Dad!”

              “Hi Grandad!”

              “Hello, Lily and Beattie, it’s lovely to see you.”

              “How are you Dad?

              “Well I’m a bit cross actually.”


              “They want me to cocoon and stay at home because I’m over seventy. I’m not some old fool. I know how to do social distancing and I’m not going to take any risks with my health. I will go mad if I can only go out to the garden.”

              “But Dad, it is for your own good.”

              “Humph, it is like Big Brother!”

              “Grandad, we don’t want you to get sick and die,” said Beattie with tears in her eyes. “We want to fly to Ireland to see you after all this.”

              “It’s okay honey, I promise I will be good, and I might just come to Australia to see you, after this crisis. I will definitely need to spread my wings after being cooped up.”

              “Why don’t you get something to do Dad, so you don’t notice the time passing?”

              “Well, actually when I said ‘cooped’ I got a brainwave. I think I will get some chickens. I used to look after them as a boy at home. That will keep me busy, and I will have fresh eggs. I can get some from the farmer down the road, Pat O’Donnell.”

              Humphrey started rubbing his hands at the idea. He couldn’t wait to get going on the project.  Lily and Beattie smiled and agreed that it was a great idea.

              As soon as the call was finished, Humphrey went out to the shed to sort out wood for building some hen coops. Humphrey was a man who always had things put away for use in the future. He was always prepared for any eventuality. Being out of control was one of the things that made him feel disorientated since this virus started. Now he was going to take some sort of control over something. Humphrey started whistling as he busied himself, getting wood and nails.

              Humphrey researched how to make chicken-coops on the internet. Then he went out and carefully measured everything and started constructing the coops. After a week he had them made and when his daughter and granddaughter called him on Skype, he proudly showed them off.

              “They look great Dad,” Lily said.

              “They’re really cool, Grandad,” Beattie added… “What do you have to do next?”

              “Now, I must get a run to let the chickens run around in. Apparently you can order one online. You just have to put it all together.”

              “That will keep you busy Dad,” Lily laughed.

As soon as they had finished their video call Humphrey researched chicken runs on line, comparing quality and prices. Once he was satisfied, he ordered one, which was to be delivered in a few days.

When the run arrived, he was delighted, as he was eager to see his project completed.. He studied the manual for instructions in how to assemble it. He worked through the instructions methodically and was very pleased with himself when he had the whole thing put together. Humphrey carefully lifted it over the chicken coops and stood back to survey his handiwork. He noted that the day had gone quickly, that he felt good spending time out in the garden, and he didn’t feel angry anymore. Humphrey couldn’t wait to show Lily and Beattie the progress he had made. They could see his pride at what he had achieved, and noticed how happy and animated he was.

“I’m going to get six hens from Pat O’Donnell tomorrow. He will leave them at the gate for me, and I will leave the money in the porch for him.”

“I’m dying to see the hens, Grandad.”

“As soon as they have settled in, I will introduce them, and you can name them.”

Beattie beamed all the way from Sydney. It made Humphrey’s heart swell with love for her.

True to his word, Pat O’Donnell delivered the hens along with a big bag of pellets, and two bags of wood chips for bedding, and took his money. Humphrey rang him up and thanked him, and then started settling the hens into their new quarters. He gave them some pellets to eat plus some fruit and vegetable scraps. He couldn’t wait until the morning to see if they had laid any eggs.

Humphrey was up at the crack of dawn. He went into the chicken run and opened the coops. He made soft clucking noise to the chickens and gently felt about in their woodchip bedding. He found three eggs in all and was delighted with his find.

The eggs were fried for breakfast and put on hot buttery toast. “Good enough for a king,” Humphrey chuckled to himself. As soon as he had finished his breakfast, he video-called Lily and Beattie. Beattie was very excited about naming the chickens. He led them down the garden on the iPad. He propped his iPad on top of one of the coops.

“Now, I want the first name that comes into your head when you see each chicken,” said Humphrey, smiling. “Here’s the first one,” he said, scooping a chicken up in his arms.

“Freckles,” Beattie answered instantly. “Brownie, Charlotte, Peggy, Hawkeye, and…. Dolly,” Beattie called out as each hen was shown.

“Well, you did a fantastic job in naming them, Beattie. I will video them every day to show you how they are getting on.”

So, Humphrey did just that and Lily put the videos up on Facebook and Humphrey and all the hens gathered a huge following. Some fans contacted Lily to ask if they could email Humphrey as he didn’t do Facebook. Lily vetted each fan that asked and then sent them Humphrey’s email. Between the chickens and the emails, Humphrey didn’t worry about being ‘cocooned’. Like the chickens he was grateful for the simple things in life. As he fed the chickens he spoke his daily mantra to them…“I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re ok.”

I hope you enjoyed the story and that we will all emerge from this time as more beautiful people in our inner and outer lives, just like newly emerged butterflies.

2 thoughts on “Cocooning”

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