We country kids had lots of work and activities to keep us busy, but during the summer evenings when all the work was done, we kicked back on the front porch and waited until it was dark enough for the “lightning bugs” to come out and fill the evening with their rhythmic, on-off, twilight dance. The atmosphere at night would be saturated with fireflies. As far as we could see – that’s all we could see.
As kids, we had no idea what those little, magical bugs were with lights in their tails. They were the most curious insects we’d ever seen and I think the most interesting. When these flying bugs came out, we gathered up clear glass jars and poked holes in the lids. Then all of us went looking for lightning bugs to arrest and incarcerate within our clear, glass prisons. Once inside the jars, those little critters flew all around in their cell, clashing against the walls as though they desperately wanted out.
Even though we kids could be a little cruel, and even as cruel as we seemed, and even though we enjoyed gazing at jars full of bugs, we wouldn’t have kept them encased in those jars all night, although staring at those lightning bugs through those clear, glass jars was the highlight of our summer evenings. It was almost as much fun as gazing at a sparkling Christmas tree … which we never had, but with so many lights going on and off in one place, it sort of made it seem a little like the holidays.
While I enjoyed staring at the miniature glass globes, I still felt sorry for those little guys encased in the Mason glass jars, and before we got ready to go inside for the night, my mother would say, “Y’all let those bugs out of those jars,” then we would unscrew the jar tops, shake and sling the jars as if to say, “Your time is up, little convicts. Come on out to freedom,” and out all the lightning bugs would fly … back into the air to join their happy buddies who had never seen the inside of a prison.
I only remember lightning bugs when we lived near Patmos. When we moved to McKey Lake, I don’t recall ever seeing any more fireflies. I don’t know why, but perhaps those creatures only lived in that part of the country, which if that’s true, it makes me feel special knowing that they lit up only around our old homestead.
I always wondered if we had taken a picture of those lightning bugs, would the lights have been visible on the print? I always thought about that, but since we didn’t have a camera then, that’s all it was – just a thought. But while we could enjoy these creatures, we did. Today, I have the memory of those warm, simple, down-home evenings with the air all lit up with glowing bugs, laughing children and enchanted adults. And, of course, memories are just as precious as being where the action is. Only now, everything takes place in my mind, which is just as good as an Instamatic camera.