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Tuesday, May 17, 2011



About the age of three or four, I remember the first time ever seeing lightning bugs and I just stood out in the yard in wonderment. Had no idea what they were at all but the way they shot this way and that with their lights left me in awe. I wasn’t alone for my mother was with me and I remember not wanting to come inside. But ah, I had to—no choice there!

Two years later, I became a constant lightning bug watcher and catcher. Caught them in my hands like most kids did and had no idea what to do with them and so I had to let them go. Wanted to keep them: Didn’t all kids?

By the age of seven I had learned how to catch them at night and put them in a glass jar [yes back then there weren’t any plastic jars] and have my dad poke holes in the metal lid—that way the lightning bugs could breathe. There weren’t many kids around me in this neighborhood for we had moved—there was a girl next door who was about twelve and as mean as snake and a boy who lived sort of beside me the other way. I chose the boy of course!

He and I spent many an evening catching what seemed like hundreds of them and we had jars and jars full of lightning bugs. The best thing was his idea to let them all go at once after he counted to five: It was like tons of sparklers going off to see them shoot out of our jars! It was one of those awesome moments that a kid never forgets—ever.

The next year another move and this time it was in a big neighborhood with tons of kids and tons of lightning bugs to catch. Nirvana! For six years I had such happiness in that place with the joy of friends and lightning bugs.

Teenage years set in and I could have cared less about them and this feeling stayed with me into my adult years---until I became the mother of two sons.

They were taught to catch them the same way that I was only they got to use plastic which was a lot safer [oh those broken jars of the past that left me with cuts and scrapes!] and not only did my sons experience the joy of those shooting star-like bugs but so did I, once again. When my sons grew up and moved away, I tried to quit looking at lightning bugs for it made me sad—sad that not only my childhood had been long gone but also my sons.

Just when you think things will stay status quo sometimes miracles do happen. I became a grandmother and my first grandchild was a boy. He was about two or so and I took him out in my yard to see the lightning bugs: He went haywire running this way and then that way trying to catch them. I laughed when he said, “More over there!” Well, there weren’t but it looked like it. We caught some and put them in a plastic bug keeper—but that didn’t last long for I had to let them go.

The older he got, the more lightning bugs we chased and caught! By this time, he had a little sister and she was in on the chase and they wore me out! But it was such fun! Add another grandson and the three of us became lightning bug catchers and chasers—experts of sort. We no doubt caught hundreds upon hundreds and always let them go –but not till we had a lot to let go at once. [I remembered that boy who had counted to five long ago.]

Now my grandchildren are sixteen, thirteen and eleven and are they into catching lightning bugs? I don’t think so and oh how I wish they were little again so we could relive that wonderful experience.

The other day I saw my first lightning bug of the season and my heart lept up in wonderment just like it did when I was little. Funny that such a little bug with incredible light can evoke such a childhood memory—but it did. And for me, lightning bugs will always be little miracles. Go outside some evening and let yourself go and see if you find any: I’ll bet that little child in you will come out just as it did with me. Wonderment still exists: All you have to do is to look at those lightning bugs.

Sherry Hill

*Published in The Charleston Gazette on Sept. 8, 2013

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