King of the Road Feedback

You can feel the summer sweats and the end of love chills with this one from Dave:

Another pair of summer memories, connected but a lifetime apart….

Fireflys, or as we called them, lightning bugs.

On summer evenings when I was a kid, lightning bugs were as symbolic of the season as Phil Rizzuto calling Yankee games on scratchy Sears transistor radios or Sabrett dogs from the truck near the old DeWitt theater.

We all vied to be the first to see the first lightning bug flash of the evening. It was somehow important, although I don’t know why. Firsts were, that was the way of it.

They were large and  flew so slowly; easy to see and watch as they cruised silently in the humid city air. We seldom killed them, as we did mosquitoes; they were harmless, almost totemic symbols of summer. If one landed on your neck or shoulder and, thinking it a wasp or some such horror, you did smash it, you were left with a glowing streak on your fingers, and felt sad.

As I grew up and went to college, grad school and beyond, I sort of forgot about lightning bugs. For years I don’t remember seeing them at all on hot evenings. I have even wondered if they suffered a population crash from all the pesticides we sprayed around in the Sixties.

In 1986 I was driving with my first wife back north from her parents home in far southern New Jersey. We drove in the typical dense, angry silence that characterized the last year of our marriage. The car had no A/C so the windows had to be open, the wind noise making conversation thankfully impractical.

The roads down there are often unlit, and it was fully dark. The tension in the car, the heat, the fog all made the long drive depressing and spooky. As we crossed a bridge over Rancocas creek, I looked out into the darkness along the road and was entranced. The marshy banks of the creek seemed to be lined with Christmas trees. Hundreds, thousands of fireflys – no, lightning bugs – perched on the branches, hovered over the marsh grass, flitted over the black waters of the creek.

I pulled over, ignoring my wife’s complaints, and stared out the window into the hot night, staring at the countless winking cold lights, luciferase greenly oxidizing luciferin in the tails of a million ancient beetles along a dank South Jersey creek bed, all for me. For just a minute, I was no longer an unhappy, soon-to-be-single-again grad student with no money and little hope.

It was summer and I was the first to see the lightning bugs.

2 Responses to “King of the Road Feedback”

  1. andrea d. wiener says:

    and yet somewhere out there, Big Louie (is there a female equivalent?? :-)) is looking and smiling at all this…

    “Kings and Queens Rule!!”

  2. Dave says:

    “Kings and Queens?”

    Are you referring to a ballgame played against a suitable wall?

    If so, we called the game just “Kings” and it was as big as baseball for a while.