Fourth of July when the fireworks were going off in the neighborhood, I'd slipped out on the porches to see if I could spy any of them over the trees. Not a single flare did I see but I did see a load of fireflies gently lighting the brush along the sides of the yard. I stood there in the semi-darkness watching them as they flashed on and off like a slow turn signal and smiled at the memory they brought.
First, let me share what little knowledge I've acquired today about fireflies. They are not a pretty bug. They are related to beetles and the light they emit has neither ultraviolet nor infrared frequencies. They are bioluminescent The color light they flash comes from the lower abdomen and may be green, yellow, or pale red.
In larvae stages the larvae glow...Ever hear of glow worms? There's your baby firefly. The adult bug lays eggs on the ground and when they hatch they become larvae. They live on or near the ground and hibernate through the winter. In spring they feed off snails, other bugs and larvae and slugs. They may stay in this stage for several years. Eventually they turn into a bug. The lighting is thought to be a warning but is also used in mating rituals to attract mates. They signal with their lights, something glowing steadily, sometimes flashing rapidly, sometimes signaling intermittently.
There's a whole lot more on these curious bugs but not really relevant to my summer memories so I'll leave you with that basic information. The truth is that fireflies in theory are far more romantic and summer like than they are in fact!
What made me smile the other night was a memory of a mild summer evening with my middle brother. He and I were only a year and nine days apart in age. This did not make for a close relationship unfortunately but the night I remembered is very special for me of the two of us. I suppose Mama must have been home alone with us, because Daddy never would have let us stay out so near dark. We each had a jar with a lid that had holes punctured in the top and Chuck and I were on a quest. We meant to make nightlights with fireflies!
Our yard was surrounded by shrubs, prime spots for fireflies...Our yard glowed.
We giggled and ran and chased and exulted when we found one in our hand. We soon had a serious amount of fireflies in each jar. At some point, Chuck wiped his sweaty palm on the front of his shirt. He'd forgotten he'd just caught a firefly and hadn't yet put it in his jar. His shirt glowed in streaks...
Nothing is more fascinating than discovering as an 8 and 7 year old than that you can glow as well! Soon both of our shirts were smeared with glow.
I still recall how soft the evening air felt and the wonder of standing in the yard while hundreds of fireflies lit the air about us and the joy of having a glowing streak on our own shirts so that we became part of the pattern of that summer evening. I remembered how deeply disappointed we were when Mama called us indoors.
That night I felt very close to my brother and we enjoyed a rare night free from the usual struggles we faced as children.
At some point in every summer past I've given my own children a jar with holes punched in the lid and sent them out at dusk to catch fireflies...