Firefly Nights


Images courtesy of Pixabay

There’s magic in a summer night.

Hearing Mom say, “Five minutes, now, I mean it!” And knowing she doesn’t mean it.

Staying up a little late every night, the whole family, the whole neighborhood, our whole world. Feeling like we’re all getting away with something, we’re all in on it together.

Barefoot walking in the grass—the tickle of it beneath your tender toes, the softness where the fresh-cut pieces pile, all in a line. Breathing deep the clean perfume.

summer grass

The sticky heaviness of the air that hugs your shoulders like a favorite, time-worn blanket. You almost feel hot, but no, it’s just right. It’s perfect.

Honeysuckle sweetening the world, surprising you when you catch a breath. You pause, try to catch the scent again, but it never graces the same patch of air twice.

Fireflies sparking in the twilight—ambling, lazy-like across the yard, looping and teasing, hiding at the edge of the woods, begging to be chased, flirting. Fallen stars, now in reach. And maybe one night we realize they are one of the few glittering things we chase that we can catch, and hold on to for a time. And then, somehow, we know that a God who invented fireflies must like to laugh, and He is kind, he must be kind.

Flying downhill on a two-wheeler, heedless of danger. Feeling the humid wind caress your face, flying, flying, squealing to a stop at the bottom. Glancing over to see if your lost-in-laughing-conversation parents will tell you it’s past your bedtime. They don’t. Catching your brother’s twinkling eye: Quick, let’s go again before they stop us! Grinning, sneaking past Mom and Dad together, racing back up the hill again, delighted with your luck. Soaring downhill, again and again, and all is right with the world.

Baseball games droning on forever in the background. Daddy shouts at the game, happy and relaxed, and if you shout with him, you are in—pulled into that safe and mysterious and manly Dad World, where he winks at you and socks you in the shoulder, and it’s only the two of you, and now you are one of the guys, even if you are a little girl. Some happy place inside your chest hums with joy.

Eating foods that drip, and it’s okay: Watermelon, running red down your chin while you spit out the slippery black seeds. Popsicles, sticky and sickly sweet and taking the edge off the heat. Peaches, their strange fuzzy skin hiding a burst of Georgia delight. Tomatoes, fresh from the garden, sliced on a plate in Mema’s kitchen—not too firm and not too squishy—and you never knew tomatoes could taste like sunshine.

Watermelon in summer

Iced tea on a front porch, Mom telling you to run to the garden to grab a sprig of mint to swirl inside it, to make it just right. You are important, trusted with a family mission. Savior of the tea.

Muggy after-dinner walks—unhurried, unplanned. Nodding and waving at smiling neighbors who hibernated inside all winter. Picking flowering weeds as you walk, because even they are beautiful, worthy of the vase on the kitchen windowsill.

The heavy smell of rain nipping the air, friendly thunder rolling in the distance. Wondering if the storm will ever actually show up, or if it will just make a show, rumbling and threatening, like a cranky but lovable relative who makes a fuss then drifts away as if to say, “Just kidding.”

Card games and dominoes at the kitchen table, while an uncle’s banished-to-the-porch cigar smoke sneaks inside through the cracks in the window frames—it’s comforting somehow, and dizzy-making.

Summer weddings, the bride a fallen moonbeam, the groom dazed and not believing his luck. The crowd lingering in the parking lot even after they drive away.

First-love hand-holding. The head-spinning, interlaced fingers kind, where you think, This is how people who are really in love hold hands, and no one else has ever loved like we two. And your heart thuds in your palm, and you know he can feel it, and your hand starts to sweat, and you wonder if you should let go, but he doesn’t let go, so you hang on too. And you think, So this is love. I finally found it.

Frank and Jane, wedding day

Old-love hand-holding. The safe kind, the your-hand-fits-in-mine-and-always-will kind. The kind where you can talk or not talk, and the silence is cozy, too. The wrinkly and worn-in kind. The finishing-sentences kind. The kind you want your parents to have. The kind you want to have.

There’s magic in a summer night.

The soul of childhood, and we all feel it: Firefly nights, old-story-telling nights, baseball-in-the-backyard-by-moonlight nights, everybody-in-love nights.

The whole world is young again, if only for a time. For an extra hour, maybe two, we revel in the lingering daylight, wrapping ourselves in the friendly dark that slowly puts the day to sleep. And in those hours, anything is possible.

There’s magic in a summer night.

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Author: Elizabeth Laing Thompson VIEW ALL AUTHORS POSTS

Elizabeth works from home as a writer, editor, diaper changer, baby snuggler, laundry slayer, not-so-gourmet chef, kid chauffeur, floor mopper, dog groomer, and tantrum tamer. She is always tired, but it's mostly the good kind.


  • Dac Crossley June 8, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Firefly nights, indeed! So many memories. My grandmother explaining the difference between lightening bugs and fireflies. Lightening bugs had two green spots on their shoulders. Lay them on their backs and click! click! they threw themselves up. South Texas had many twilight wonders; a favorite memory is my brother and me playing trains — running with flashlights in the summer darkness.

    Don’t forget the heavens, Elizabeth. The Milky Way spread out, running to the south. And the Teapot and the Scorpion, watching over us as we drifted into peaceful slumber.

  • Dad June 8, 2010 at 8:30 pm


  • Geri Laing June 9, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Beautiful! I am so glad we have our grandkids now to remind us of all these magical things. Last night at twilight we went out on one of those slow, lazy walks, looking for worms on the sidewalk and talking about lightning bugs. And of course, I do love the “old love” hand holding.

  • Robin Weidner June 9, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Beautiful and lyrical. A touching reminder to cherish to small moments. For instance, riding my bike early this morning by the river, mirror smooth and bright, with birds singing all around me. The sun shining on weeds, making them glisten like jewels. Our black lab Mojo skidding down the bank for an early morning swim, head held high, sputtering due to a doggie grin that makes him take in a little more water than he’d like.

    And most of all, all the reminders of God from the cool of the morning to the heat of the sun. He is everywhere.

  • Jonathan Laing June 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    This is it! This is summer! This is what David and I have tried to describe to people, that twilight-a-little-later than normal and I could stay up and play all night if Mom let me feeling that I remember from when I was a little kid! Thanks, Bulabuluth!

  • Jenni Clemens June 14, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Finally…. you have a blog!! Wahoo!

  • Ann Deam June 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I love your writing, Elizabeth! It makes my heart happy. Even if this does not describe one’s own childhood, your words help describe what life can be, should be. Thank you!

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