“It’s almost dark!” shouted one of my cousins. “Almost, are you ready?” “Did you bring any jars,” I asked really no one in particular.
Us kids painstakingly waited almost every night in the summer time for the sun to go down out in the country where we lived. Who are us kids? Well, usually it was my sisters Donna, Nancy, my brother Craig, and our cousins Karen, Janet, and Brian. LeeAnn would not be coming along for another 10 years. My cousin Brian however was too little to join in and he usually sat on his mother’s lap on our porch swing.
My mother’s sister Merle, or as she was called almost all her life, “Tootsie” and her husband, my uncle Bob would come over to our house and visit my mom and dad. Naturally they would bring their three kids which gave us four kids built in play mates. The first eleven years of my life were spent in the wonderful company of my three cousins.
Why were we painstakingly waiting for night to fall? Why did I ask if everyone had jars? Simple silly, in the summer time and after dark the fire-flies came out. Our huge back yard would come alive with twinkling, flashing yellowish-orange lights. We kids hardly ever called them fire-flies. To us they were just plain and simple “lightning bugs.”
Of course not many people knew it, but they weren’t really flies at all. Nope, they were beetles. But again, we kids, the seven of us could care less. They were lighting bugs and when they lit up we would catch them carefully in our hands and then put them in jars.
We would punch holes in the jar’s lid so that air could get in. Being only 6-10 we didn’t really know what the lighting bugs would eat, so in hopes of keeping them alive to flash their lights we put grass in the jar. Then we would run round the yard with dozens of lighting bugs in our jars watching in child-like fascination as they would glow in the dark. To a young child it was like a personal flashlight.
Those summer time evenings were simple, yet filled with such wonder and fun. We didn’t have Xboxes, Play Stations, computers, Wii’s, or even cell phones in those days. Our imagination became our play time guides. We had never even heard of video games. Running around in the back yard on a hot summer night catching bugs that glowed in the dark was just good down home fun.
Now and then my uncle and my dad would “light up and glow in the dark.” That’s right, my dad and my uncle smoked. My dad would light up his Marlboro’s and my uncle his Camels. (Both my uncle and dad have quit smoking, my dad after becoming a Christian and growing in the Lord, and as far as I know my uncle when he died)
Those were good times for us kids. We didn’t have to worry about gangs or drug pushers. We didn’t even have to worry much about anything. What is there to worry about when your mom and dad and uncle and aunt are sitting talking on the back porch while you ran around the yard with your cousins catching bugs?
It seems that playing outdoors with your friends or cousins is nearly lost to kids these days. Kids are into reality TV shows, cell phones and texting. They are worried about being made fun of and left out if they don’t have the right back pack, jeans, and insignias on their clothes or if they have the latest video game. Kids grow up way to fast while being forced to dodge drugs, alcohol, exposure to sex, and divorcing parents. It seems sad to me that we have lost the art of entertaining ourselves with imagination and simplicity.
It has been a long day as an adult. I have had to the adult things that enable me to provide for my family and being a contributing member of society. So, I think I will sit on the back porch and watch the cats chase mice and the sun go down. While I am sitting there I will let my mind transport me back to that wonderful backyard on West Wilson in Salem, Ohio where I chased “lightning bugs.”