So last night, at dusk, we chased fireflies. Xander caught them with his bare hands while I held the jar and closed the lid after he gently blew on the firefly to keep it from escaping (Gary taught him that). As he looked for more, leaving me holding the jar. As I felt the insects’ little wings flutter beneath the plastic I remembered a muggy summer night at three of my boy cousins’ house when I was Xander’s age. It must have been summer vacation, we must have driven up to Ohio from Tennessee for a visit. My aunt and uncle’s house was large, many-roomed, and sat next to my grandparents’ house in an urban neighborhood. You could almost hold hands across the small strip of grass that separated the two homes, that’s how close together they were.
So we were catching butterflies, my cousins and I. I had a glass mason jar filled with clumps of grass that I had pulled from my Grandpa’s yard; my cousin’s held nothing. They didn’t catch and release fireflies, they murdered them. Their method was evil and simple: catch a firefly in your bare hands, throw it to the pavement, step on it, then drag your foot across the carcass to leave a phosphorescent green trail. They killed dozens before all the fireflies in two adjoining yards disappeared down the block.
As I was teaching Xander to let the fireflies escape after a few minutes, to watch them float upward and count the seconds before they lit up again, I remembered in a flash how I had, in a moment of trying to impress those rowdy boy cousins of mine, I had murdered at least two by mimicking their diabolical methods. I felt awful about it (still do).
This weekend is/was the synchronized firefly display in the Smokies. It happens once a year, and I don’t think it happens anywhere else. They’re a species that flashes their tails in synchronicity (hence their name, synchronous Firefly). It only happens there, in the Smokies, which are about a 45 minute drive from where we live (you can read all about it here). I dreamed that we were able to go this year, but it always seems to work out that Gary is working when they’re flashing. Bummer. It’s beautiful and Gary would have a photographic/video heyday (we must try super hard and go next year!!). Here is what it looks like –
On another related note, Gary and I have been watching Firefly, which for whatever reason we never watched before (avid Buffy fans that we are–our kid’s name is Xander, after all). Thank the Netflix gods that we’re finally able to watch all quirky witty 13 episodes, in order and at our leisure and whim.
Curse your sudden and inevitable betrayal!
Ed.: Guess what? We secured a spot this Friday for a campsite right in the swirl and the light of the fireflies. Can’t wait!!