There is nothing that quite says summer in the South like catching fireflies (or lightning bugs, if you prefer) around dusk. I remember doing it as a child. And now my daughters are following suit.
I remember when I was a boy, friends of mine would catch them and put them into a glass jar, along with some sprigs of grass or bits of leaves. Of course, there was always one person who forgot to poke the holes in the top of the lid, and thus, ended up with a jar full of dead bugs.
I did the jar thing a time or two (with holes in the lid!), but I remember never really caring for it. I never much liked the idea of capturing something and holding it hostage in some crummy old glass jar. I mean, a firefly is meant to, well, fly! I’ve always thought of them as symbols of freedom. I preferred to catch one gently, let it crawl over my hand, and then let it fly away.
I enjoyed watching it in its element, in the air flying, rather than in a glass jar.
Catching fireflies is a rite of passage where I come from. It is something boys and girls alike enjoy doing on late summer nights. Of course, there is a right way to go about it. I have been reminded of this by my two daughters.
My three year old had, shall we say, an abrupt approach to the process. At least, it was abrupt for the poor fireflies! I call it the clap-and-trap approach. Here’s how it works:
Step One: Run after the prize (a.k.a. firefly)
Step Two: Extend arms when prize is within reach
Step Three: Spread hands out wide, on either side of the prize
Step Four: Quickly and violently clap hands together around said prize
Step Five: Slowly open hands and look inside
Step Six: Discard dead prize (firefly) and repeat Step One!
I had to patiently teach her that the clap-and-trap approach was not the best. She has slowly learned to gently scoop at the fireflies, cupping her hands, allowing the bugs to crawl around on her hand and then fly away.
Just tonight, my youngest daughter, cornered one against a bush, got it in her hands (more specifically, between her index finger and thumb!) and proceeded to try to eat it! I quickly helped the poor creature escape her clutches and make a hasty escape. Unfortunately, a little later, she did the finger trick again . . . this bug was not as lucky as the first!
Catching fireflies reminds us of our childhood. It reminds us of hot summer, Southern nights. I find catching fireflies far more enjoyable now as I watch my daughters do it (and their thrill over the whole thing) then I did catching them myself as a child. Of course, I still catch one or two (my three year old insists upon it!) to relive those old memories, as well as to show proper form and technique!
Creating lasting memories and spending quality time together as a family need not involve a ton of money or some exotic destination. It can happen each and every night right out in the front yard. Those are the memories that last. Those are the memories we cherish when we find ourselves being parents and teaching our children to do the very things we did when we were young.
It is in such moments when the world doesn’t seem so bad. Time seems a bit simpler. And life makes the most sense it will ever make.
Here’s a poem I find appropriate for this post:
Fireflies in the Garden
Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.Robert Frost