Summertime and the Living Is Easy

June 3, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Country Living, Summertime, Vermont. New England

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?


  • Peace is every step

    Just June, really? It still seems like all summer to me-I guess I haven’t got the memo yet!

    I am the queen of nothingness all summer..with the occasional spontaneous camping thrown in. I hope my children will carry with them as happy memories as you have.

  • Kellan

    You described my childhood summers PERFECTLY! I loved the summer fun and evenings and fire flies. We seldom see fire flies here – I’m not sure why.

    You have a great plan for this summer – I need to take you advise and do the same thing – at least from July on – June is already crammed with plans – Ugh!!

    Have a good Wednesday – thanks for the walk down memory lane! See you – Kellan

  • library lady

    It was always my plan to capture thousands of lightning bugs so that I’d have enough light to read by when my cruel, evil parents made me go to bed so early. (I had a mercifully brief encounter with lighting a candle after curfew, and figured the lightning bugs wouldn’t burn the house down.)Alas, I wasn’t as good at catching them as I should have been.

  • jamie

    Your summer sounds amazing. I love the fact that you X out weekends just for you and your family.

    Also, I don’t know the Caseopia story…

  • Family Adventure

    I cannot express how perfectly you described my dream summer. We’ve booked a weekend a month for NOTHING. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s 100% more than we had last year. I look forward to those weekends of NOTHING more than anything else this summer.

    And yes, I’d love to catch a firefly with you.


  • Tranny Head

    First off, I love Garrison. And Van Morrison.

    Second, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments! I’m very anti-oversheduling kids in general! I mean – sure, we want to make sure they have stimulation – but can’t they be stimulated while swimming in a lake with their family? And yet all of us fall into that overscheduling trap anyway!

    Good post!

  • bobbie

    You are going to have the perfect summer.

    Fireflies only in June? I find that hard to believe. I’ll have to pay attention this summer.

  • Susiewearsthepants

    I used to love catching lightning bugs. They always seemed so magical. Just June though? I didn’t know that.

  • Mighty Morphin' Mama

    What an amazingly perfect way to spend the summer. My childhood summers sound just like yours and since we have moved to this house in our neighbourhood of boys, my kids summers have been much like that. With a bit less freedom I have to admit. We do live in the city.
    I have never seen a firefly, I will have to make a June trip to a place that has them, soon.

  • Kate

    Last February when the wind and snow were howling and swirling, my girlfriend and I were busy looking at campsites online and dreaming. We agreed that on those weekends when we had “nothing” planned, that we’d just pack up and go – no reservations, just go and camp where we could find a spot. Well, I was asked to do a speaking engagement and lo and behold, the first weekend I was absolutely free was the 12th of July. That was SO not how I planned to do my summer.

    However, most of my engagements are of the one to two hour variety, which means trips to the beach with dirty kids and sandy butts. Can’t beat that!

  • Anonymous

    Loved the blog. I saw the firefly phenom this year also. In May: zero. In June: there are so many twinking that it looks like the constellations have landed in my yard. GB

  • painted maypole

    i would love to catch a firefly. summer is extra crazy this year, and i miss those lazy days…w

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