Ask me about my childhood, and I will tell you to walk to the edge of the woods with a choir of crickets chirping from every direction, your feet bare and tough, a hot, humid breeze breathing through your hair. Stand there, still and silent, and watch the dance of ten thousand fireflies blinking on and off in the darkness.  Inhale the scent of cured tobacco, freshly plowed southern soil, burning leaves, and honeysuckle. Swallow the taste of blackberries, picked straight from the bushes, and lick your teeth, the after-taste sweet in your mouth. Now stretch out on the ground and relax all your muscles. Watch nature's festival of flickering lights. Welcome to the summer of my childhood.

When I was a young girl, fireflies were as magical to me as a rare southern snow, newborn puppies, a full moon, and my daddy’s stories. Back then, fireflies came in masses to me and to my brothers and sisters, filling the nearby brush and woods with the golden-green glow of something elusive and mysterious.  

My youngest brother was a child when he told me that a firefly continues to glow for a short time after its death. Perhaps he was teasing me; I don’t know. But he planted in me the image of a fallen firefly, its light burning, life melting and oozing away, a lifetime of days and nights puddling near its wings, its warm glow growing dimmer. 

Fireflies arrive every summer and flock to the bushes in my yard but never in the brilliant masses that filled my youth. Back when my hair was long, my body firm, and my future a glorious blur, it was nothing to see thousands of those flying luminaries, dancing, pulsing, spreading their magic over the southern landscape. I no longer remember the last time I was seduced by a galaxy of fireflies, swarming in bushes and shrubs, shimmering like fallen stars in tall grass.

My brother left this world without warning in 2010. I will always remember what he told me about fallen fireflies, about their glow remaining after death. I whisper his name every time I see a firefly. 

1967 - 2010

Brenda Sutton Rose
Author of Dogwood Blues
Author Website
Follow on Twitter: Sutton_Rose214

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