The thing I miss most about childhood is lightning bugs. Just before sundown on summer evenings, the first thing that signaled the shift to the day’s end was that the rabbits would appear. Not just one or two, but eight or ten milk chocolatey brown white cotton-tailed rabbits would move out into the front yard from the tall grasses of a field next door. They would hop lazily around the yard, now vacated by noisy children. That was our livestock: wild bunnies, small and cute.
The dog would just sit on the porch watching. She wasn’t even waiting to make a move. She wasn’t interested in chasing them. She was just keeping an eye on her herd from a higher vantage point – glad that the day was cooling off. As the light grew dimmer, the bunnies would move gradually back to the tall swaying grasses in the field and eventually all disappear back into them as the next show began.
The lightning bugs would start their performance off slowly, with just a few lights beginning here and there. More and more, and even more, would join in creating the most wonderful light show against the darkening landscape. They never seemed close enough, so as a child, I would run, this way, no that way, no over there, until breathless, trying to catch them.
As I grew older I learned to just wait. If I stayed quietly in one place, watching them as they rose and blinked, one would eventually light near me. I didn’t want to catch and contain them or worse, squish them on my arms like my brothers. I just wanted to catch one and watch it light in my hand. Then, when it realized it was not captive, take off and float away. It was as though for a moment I might be able to feel real magic.
Soon we would be called into go to bed. If I hurried I could get into my pj’s and get into bed where I could watch them from the window. I would take the pillow and put it at the foot of the small twin bed near the window sill and watch the pitch black darkness. As my eyes adjusted I would see them still blinking, rising up into the towering maple trees where they would spend the night. I would fall asleep there, waiting and watching, not wanting the magic to end.