By Lana Turnbull
Some things you just have to experience for yourself to appreciate how magical they are. One of those things is the sight of fireflies (or lightning bugs, as we called them when I was growing up in the Delta) on a warm summer night. When I was little, I’d sit on the screened porch in my nightgown, watching the tiny flickers of light and begging to stay up a while longer.
God must have dreamed up fireflies just to delight children and remind grownups that we all need magic in our lives. They are so incandescent and so elusive that try as I might I have never been able to take or even find a still photo that does them justice. Without the mystery of not knowing where the tiny points of lights will appear next, or how long it will be before they light up again, something is lost in the translation. It’s a reminder that the truly wondrous moments of our lives are fleeting. If we close our eyes or fail to pay attention, we can miss them.
Childhood is like a lightning bug. When we are in it, we can’t wait to grow up and once we are grown up we wish we could be kids again – it’s there and then it’s gone, but every now and then, we see it flicker again in the eyes of our children.
Lightning bugs also teach us a hard lesson about trying to harness magic. So many times we would catch fireflies and put them in a mason jar (even one with holes poked in the top and leaves and drops of water to sustain them) only to find that they didn’t survive until morning. The precious thing that thrilled and enchanted us so much wasn’t meant for captivity – by trying to hold on to it, we lost it.
My daddy loved a line from one of his favorite old songs, “The best things in life are free.” He believed in taking joy in the magic moments of lightning bugs in the dusk and heat lightning on the horizon, first steps and first dances – all the sights, sounds and smells of summer nights we can never revisit except in our dearest memories and dreams.
On this summer night, I’ll sit on the front porch and watch for the first lightning bugs to appear and wish for dreams of chasing them barefoot in the twilight just before dark until Daddy finally calls me to come inside.