I saw my first firefly last night. He was flying all alone over the meadow lighting briefly along the high grass and then again up around the piney edge. He must have been an advance man, the renegade firefly checking out our yard for the gang back home. I did not know until long after I had grown up that fireflies were mostly a June experience. I remember catching lightening bugs all summer long. We’d put them in a bunch of wet grass in a jar with holes in the lid for a while before setting them free again. I thought this went on for months. Apparently it was just in June.
Summer used to last forever. There wasn’t this rush to plan it all when we were kids. I remember the days floating by in an endless monochrome of bright sun and coconut oil. There were long parades of dirty laughing kids on bikes riding back and forth to the confectionary, chasing the ice cream truck in the afternoon, and the neighborhood dads cars in the evening. We ran home for supper and then came back out until dark. Our parents cooked outside, and talked to one another over the fence. We seemed to have limitless freedom and a wide territory, but really we were all connected by the invisible web of mothers talking over the fence and dads mowing grass. One might wonder to another if they’d seen Billy, and that wonder would get passed along until Miz Caroline Prokopich, down on the corner with the best view, passed back the message that he was on the church parking lot with a bunch of boys playing baseball. The internet had nothing on them. Next there would be a posse of big sisters dispatched to make sure
they weren’t hitting balls on the side of the church with the stained glass window and the picture of the Sweet Baby Jesus next to the curly headed lamb. The little girls carried dirty babydolls and played hopscotch on that same parking lot, while the teenagers snuck cigarettes in the alley, and kisses on the bench by the rocky manmade pond with a pretty statue of Mary on its banks.
Now there is the adult rush to plan. There must be a 4th of July holiday. When is vacation this year? Which kids have plans to work when, or go to which camps? You have to invite far flung friends and relatives in advance so they get a spot on the calendar. Then your other friends have parties and invite you, so more scheduling happens that way. Concert tickets go on sale in the spring and you have to snap those up if you want to see Prairie Home Companion when Garrison comes to your state, or when Van Morrison will be nearby. Before you know it you have gobs of booked weekends and can’t quite figure out how to spontaneously hike to the waterfall and sit there all day long with a book, a couple of deviled eggs, some friend chicken and wet dogs and kids.
So this year we are scheduling like crazy just like everyone else. Only we are scheduling something to get back what we worry we have lost. It is summer 1971 around here. We are booking a whole run of empty weekends. Big Red Xs that say, “No, sorry we are booked that weekend” “What? Oh, we have a whole bunch going on then too, it’s just completely full” And it is full too, with fat Xs marking planned emptiness. We are reaching way back so that we can dig in the dirt and drink homemade lemonade that takes a whole morning to make. It takes longer when you have to paint your toenails red, and read trashy magazines while you do it. We aim to drive along old dirt roads here in Vermont and remember why we were dying to move up here. We will search out hidden swimming holes and look for bear caves. It is time to tell the Casseopia story again, and try once more to find the Bear, stars for wishing on and lazy contemplation.
I have a great recipe for sweet lemon fluff. Oh and Gram’s divinity that was so heartbreakingly sweet it made your teeth ache. I might make a raspberry fool with chocolate sprinkles on top. Shoot, I might spend one whole Saturday just looking at old sugary summer recipes.
Wanna catch a firefly?