CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About the age of 3 or 4, I remember my first time ever seeing lightning bugs; I just stood out in the yard in wonderment. I 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. I caught them in my hands, like most kids did, but had no idea what to do with them, so I had to let them go. I wanted to keep them -- didn't all kids?
By the age of 7 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 so the lightning bugs could breathe. We had just moved to this neighborhood and there weren't many kids around -- there was a girl next door who was about 12 and as mean as snake, and a boy who lived sort of beside me the other way. I chose to befriend 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 brought another move, and this time it was to 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.
Then my teenage years set in and I could not have cared less about lightning bugs. 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 I was, only they got to use plastic, which was a lot safer -- those jars of the past, when broken, left me with cuts and scrapes. And not only did my sons experience the joy of those little shooting stars, but, once again, so did I. When my sons grew up and moved away, I tried to quit looking at lightning bugs for it made me sad -- sad for my long-gone childhood and my faraway sons.
Just when you think things will stay status quo, though, sometimes miracles happen. I became a grandmother, and my first grandchild was a boy. When he was about 2 or so, I took him out into 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 too, and they wore me out! But it was such fun! Add another grandson, and the three of us became expert lightning bug catchers and chasers. We no doubt caught hundreds upon hundreds, and always let them go -- but not till we had a lot to let go at once.
This year, upon seeing my first lightning bug of the season, my heart leapt in wonderment just like it did when I was little. Funny that such a little bug with incredible light can evoke such a wonderful childhood memory -- but it did.
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 we have to do is to look at those lightning bugs.
Sherry Hill, of Charleston, may be emailed at climber...@aol.com.