Catching Fire Flies

In a family of nine, on its way to thirteen; you have to make your own fun. One thing we will play was catching fireflies and put them in our shirt pocket. Our chest would light up. Some nights the air thick and muggy, when darkness took over the back yard, we went hunting for lighting bugs. In 1950-ish Atlanta, Georgia, fireflies were called lighting bugs.

Six of the nine children were running around the back yard grabbing at lighting bugs. Some of the bugs went into pockets, some into brown paper bags, and some into mason jars. Most of the bugs were let go when we were called into the house. A few didn’t leave this world until the washing machine cycle.

If you kept your bugs in bags or jars without air circulation, soon movement and light ceased.  I kept mines in a jar with holes punched into the lid. The bugs went into the sock drawer. Sometimes they would last a week before the light went out or I forget they were in the drawer.

Some nights when the house was scary, I pull out my jar of bugs. Whenever the rafters groaned, or the walls popped, or a moth slammed into the bedroom window, I would awake with a fright.

In the dark under the house, a cat wrestled with a rat in the crawl space. I imagined trolls and demons were coming for me. My daddy can’t help me; he is either working or snoozing. Outside, a squirrel dives from a tree limb to the roof. Thud! They are here.

I go to my sock drawer and pull out the lighting bugs. A shake of the jar and they light up. “We will save you,” they are saying. Watching the bugs flash on and off, my heart calms, and the lights tranquilizes me to sleep again.

Fast forward, I was visiting a friend, whose husband Calvin had died a few years before. She was explaining how she was doing. “Since Calvin’s death,” she said, “I get a bit lonely, but my church friends and Tixie here, always bring me out of it.” The Phalene look up from his lap throne, and nodded his head, as if to bow.

She said, “Sometimes I get scared in this house, so keep my cell phone and Tixie close to me. At night, I leave a TV and a light on. It’s just to make the burglars think I am up. This house creaks, cracks, and pops at night.”

“Makes me jumpy, I am always checking doors and windows. And don’t let Tixie bark at a squirrel or something late at night, I have to take a pill to get back to sleep.” We prayed together before I left.

Late one night I was at my desk, when I heard my house creak, crack, and pop. This went on for a couple of nights; I kept waking up fearful and checked the windows and doors. On the third night, I dump pickles out of the jar, punched holes in the top. Then I went out into the back yard and caught some fireflies. I sat them on the night stand. That night I slept straight through.


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