The home I grew up in was blessed with a long wrap around front porch. It stretched from one end of the house to the other. The house was an old wood frame structure, that, when it was torn down a year ago, was over 100 years old. My dad’s parents lived on one side and my two sisters and I plus our parents lived on the other.
The porch was an incredible attraction. When we were really little running as fast as we could from one end to the other was a constant activity. It was where, on a Sunday afternoon, the neighbors would often gather and have cookies, lemonade, or if there were lots of men, my dad or grandfather would offer a beer.
In the waning light of a summer’s Sunday afternoon the day would wind down, and there would be games played by the children, and soft conversations amongst the adults. One of the great memories I have of the porch, the neighborhood children and the watching adults has to do with what I have always called, “The Night of the Fireflies.”
Now there were always fireflies in the summer evenings. But this night was special. The air seemed to be full of fireflies, there seemed to be only a few inches of space between them. They were everywhere. We ran and jumped and giggled and laughed as we tried to catch the elusive flies with a light in their butts.
On this particular night holding a firefly in our hands seemed to appear to have the light shine right through our palms. They were so numerous and the light they gave off so brilliant that it seemed the night was filled with magic. There was a soft summer twilight and the air was warm as it touched our faces.
To this day I do not remember, nor does anyone else I have ever asked, where the jars came from. Mason jars were a common part of our life in those days. They were the bearers of the summers harvest, the canned pickles, beets and peppers; the ways in which we captured those flavors of summer when the winter nestled us in for days, dark and dreary.
Once the Mason jars appeared, the children, some of whom were veterans of firefly captures of summers past, leapt into action. The youngest among us were trained in a instant. Suddenly the yard, already full of fireflies, was now filled with excited and giggling children, jars in hand, attempting to catch some light. Once the jars held some of these mysterious and illuminated creatures’ covers were screwed into place and the jars were lifted high as fireflies blinked and winked.
It was one of those nights, often reverenced in poetry and song, as being magical. The children parading around the front yard lifting their jar lights held high, the gathered parents and grandparents chuckling softly, created an atmosphere that could only be described with the word idyllic.
How long the makeshift parade lasted I do not remember. I have a vague reflection of one of the fathers with a narrow nail in hand, punching holes in the covers. We children always wanted to keep the fireflies. Now as an adult, I know that they should have never been caught.
The morning was a time to see how they fared in their captivity. Soon they were let loose to fly and to light another summers evening.
“The Night of the Fireflies” was a memory set apart. I’m sure there were other nights when the fireflies flew and danced in the summer twilight, but none quite as spectacular as the one we gave title to, one that was etched in our memories.
When I think of summer and sit quietly in the wonder of the soft light just before dark, I remember that night and hear the murmur of voices on the long porch and in my mind’s eye, the eye of memory, see that childhood memory take shape and form and give birth to those faces from, what seems to be, so long ago. I see the fireflies so thick in the air. I hear the giggles of my childhood friends and I see that group of adults delighting once again in childhood.
The long porch, the scene of so many hours of happy play and neighborhood gatherings, is gone. The house that was once attached to the porch is also gone. Many of the people who gathered there are also gone. But the fireflies remain and you can still see them on a summer’s evening, just before dark, lighting both the night and your memory.
Write a summer story. Write about a summer day or a summer night and capture and the sunshine, the rain, or the darkness. But no matter what: “Write On.”