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Fireflies Help Illuminate Childhood
I’ve just come in from the back porch, where I spent a very productive half-hour watching the fireflies.
And people think I don’t use my time wisely.
Actually, I think there is a great deal to be said for sitting on the porch, doing nothing that the rest of the world might deem important. For starters, it’s a good way to digest the strawberry shortcake you shouldn’t have eaten but couldn’t resist because the strawberries are so good and the season is so short.
Better than that, though, is the practice of using your brain for nothing more than trying to guess were the next lightning bug will flash. If your brain is anything on mine, it runs on the very edge of being overloaded, every single waking hour. A few minutes of this diversion might mean the difference between getting up and going to work the next morning, or waking up wearing one of those jackets with the sleeves that buckle in the back.
Fireflies are extraordinary little creatures. For one thing, they’ve pretty much got the “bug with a butt that lights up” thing all to themselves. If everything that flew around the back yard did that, they wouldn’t be a big deal at all. And frankly, it would be kind of annoying.
Fireflies also hold a special place in our collective memory. Is there anyone among us who didn’t once upon a kidhood venture out in the yard on a warm June night to catch lightning bugs? The very mention of it conjures up thoughts of me and my siblings and a dozen or so of our cousins, running around Grandma and Grandpa’s yard with peanut butter jars, trying to catch enough bugs to make a lantern.
We always punched holes in the lids of the peanut butter jars so the bugs could breathe. And we always made sure to put a stick in there for them to perch on, and some grass for them to eat. We didn’t know for sure that lightning bugs ate grass. We were guessing.
(I just looked it up. According to a web site I found, some fireflies eat pollen; some eat other insects; some eat flowers; and some don’t eat anything at all. No mention of grass.)
Of course, we never got the requisite number of bugs to make a proper lantern. Just about the time you’d get on a roll some adult would come to the back door and tell you to come in for a bath and bedtime.
Who cared? The point was to be a child on a soft summer evening, in that special time between the setting of the sun and the appearance of the stars, running noisily around the yard with the people you liked most in the world. It was to be free of the encumbrances of school and homework, chores and trombone practice. It was to be a kid, in the fullest and happiest sense of the word.
I see the lives kids have today – so busy, so complex compared to my kidhood – and I wonder if they ever get that chance. I hope they do. I see the grownups with the overloaded brains and I hope they do, too.
And I hope someone passes along that stuff about the firefly diet. Remember: No grass.
© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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