A tale of Childhood in the South.

  I was driving home from work the other day and I could just make out several tiny yellow specks out of the corner of my eye.  The flashes came from the bushes along side the road and I instantly knew what they were.  Lightning bugs.  It had been along time since I had seen lightning bugs.  Or perhaps it had been a long time since I had taken the time to NOTICE lightning bugs. 

  Lightning bugs have always reminded me of my Grandmother’s house.  My Grandmother passed away several years ago and it has been awhile since I had thought of her but seeing those little specks of light brought her memories flooding back to me.  

 Photo By William Thomas


I have about a zillion cousins and we would get together during the summer at my Grandmother’s house in Tennessee.  This of course was before iPods, game boys, cell phones, even VCRS.  To amuse ourselves we had to interact with nature. 

  My Grandmother had a vegetable garden and I can remember sitting on the floor of her living room with my sister and breaking beans for canning.  Us kids weren’t allowed to help with the canning which is good because her big silver pressure cooker always scared me to death!  But we were nimble enough to break beans and husk corn under her watchful eye. 

  Thanks to my Grandmothers endeavors in canning she always had a good supply of mason jars.  
Mason jars make THE BEST bug catchers.  I can recall my Grandmother pounding air holes in the metal caps with a kitchen knife to offer whatever critters we caught a second chance at life.  During the day we would catch snails, slugs, grasshoppers and if we were really lucky frogs. 

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  After dark we had lightning bugs!  Lightning bugs are marvelous magical creatures. I always liked to pretend they were fairies.  They still amaze me even now.  How in the heck do they glow?  I remember there being hundreds of them.  And no matter how many of them we caught there were always tons more. 

  My Grandmother lived in the country and there were no street lights.  When the sun went down it got dark, REALLY dark.  The only lights you could see were the back porch light, the stars and the tiny miniature flashlights floating through the night.  If you have never caught lightning bugs it is harder than it looks.  It takes skill.  Just kidding!  They actually fly fairly low to the ground and they move pretty slow for a flying insect.  The tricky part is that we had to use our bare hands and no flash lights.  You have to wander out in the middle of the yard and wait until you see a flash.  Then you move closer each time they light up.  You can only see them when they are lit so it takes a lot of patience and luck. 

  It is not easy trying to grab a bug, hold onto a large glass mason jar with no handles, unscrew the outer ring, lift the inner metal seal, pop the bug into the jar and reassemble it all in the dark with tiny hands.  But surprisingly we caught a lot of bugs.  When we were told to come in we would make our way back towards the porch light like a beacon in the night guiding ships safely into port.

  I always wanted to set my jar of lightning bugs on my nightstand so I could read by lightning bug light.  But unfortunately they don’t all light up at once and if they did you’d have to read very quickly during blinks.  But alas!  My Grandmother always made us free our captives back into the darkness and wash our hands before we went to bed. 

Goodnight Grandma. 

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  • Beverley on Jun 25, 2009

    I’m in love with lightning bugs now. Something we don’t get where I live. Nostalgia is wonderful, isn’t it? Great story.

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