Firefly

Firefly Night by Zefirael Rain, all rights reserved

“The stars are not afraid to appear like fireflies,”

Tagore

The flicker of the first firefly takes me back to New Port News, Virginia, 1970–to the tall grasses behind our home where I searched for my lost tooth with a flashlight, and left a note for the fairy under my pillow explaining its absence.

It was that same summer that I received my first kiss, from my friend Andy, who was only six–and who was missing both his front teeth–and his hair–because his mother shaved it for the heat.

I slapped Andy on the cheek, and then slammed the screen door on his smile, adding a bloody nose to his missing teeth–but still we shared his first venison and marveled at the Praying Mantis under the Willow Trees behind the cul de sac.

Virginia…

The smell of honeysuckle and steam rising up from the tar. I loved to pop the bubbles on a hot summer day; and after a sun shower, I’d lie face down on the road to get closer to the sweet smell of rain—and if any friends happen to see me, to prove that: I’m not afraid of cars.

I did the same on the railroad tracks, a block away, but I wasn’t as brave on the two-wheeler, especially after I toppled over, splitting my knee on the sidewalk, which resulted in a single stitch, sewn in the kitchen, by my father, the intern.

I hardly remember that injury, but I still see the four-seater in Holly’s backyard swing toward the toothy smile of my baby sister as she toddles toward my voice instead of away from it. How her blue and white striped shirt soaked red, so that the three of us girls–in our matching Sears short sets–never matched again.

Michelle barely made a sound, but she still has a scar across her lip and her chin; and I still bear the regret.

There were other regrets too: the time I walked in on Holly’s father on the toilet; the time I wet my pants in the cafeteria line beside the silverware table; the week I had to stand with my nose pressed against the brick on account of not being allergic to poison oak.

I don’t remember who discovered it at the edge of the woods off the playground but we rubbed it our skin so that summer vacation would start a week early.  Alas, I was the only one who did not break out in hives.

When I think back to that single year in Virginia, it is always summer, and the radio in my father’s Mustang plays, Proud Mary, keep on burning–and another song that delighted me more–inviting me into the angst of grownup love.

You had to hope and pray and wait for your favorite song to be played on the radio back then. You couldn’t search for it online or download it in an instant.

The mystery of that tune teases me still, like the light of a firefly, flickering on and off in my memory–so quickly–that I’m unable to capture it.

Other sounds remain steady, like the jingle of the Good Humor truck as it pulls into our cul-de-sac, selling ice cream sandwiches for ten cents. I would have followed those tinny tunes anywhere. Even now, they cause a quickening inside despite the fact that I really don’t eat ice cream anymore.

That year in Virginia was a world of grasshoppers and ant hills and–Lady bug, lady bug, fly away home–and all the small things that children bend down to know.

But it’s the flicker of the first firefly, no matter my age, that lights my way back to the tall grasses of my childhood, where it is forever summer.

June 2010

7 thoughts on “Firefly

  1. i like my scar. dad offered to pay for plastic surgery when I was a teenager and i turned down the offer. i don’t even see it anymore…it is a part of me. lots of scars being the firstborn. love your writing and learning more about my past from it.

    Like

  2. Hi, I’m the artist of the fireflies picture just dropping in (:

    I’m fine with the picture being posted on this blog, so long as the image remains unaltered and a link back to my site at http://zefiraelrain.deviantart.com is provided. (This goes for anyone who might wish to repost the picture.)

    If anyone would like to use the image for any other purposes, please email me at zefiraelrain[dot]gmail[dot]com or contact me via deviantART if you happen to have an account there.

    Thank you (:

    Like

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