15 June 2007
Signs of Summer
I grew up in New Mexico, in the desert on a high plateau in the southeastern corner. About every five years or so, we would drive out to Missouri to visit my mother’s brother. I remember stopping at A & W Drive-Ins and having a baby bear burger with a frosty mug of rootbeer. I remember my dad complaining “I can’t see the scenery for all these trees!” and me replying, in that sing-song ‘parents are so dense’ voice of a child, “but daaaadddd, the trees are the scenery!” (For what it’s worth, now that i live in Michigan and visit New Mexico, I understand what he meant!) I remember that I usually got a case of strep throat, and it was blamed on the window unit A/C (we had swamp coolers in New Mexico, evaporative cooling works when the humidity is so low!).
But most of all, I remember the fireflies. They were so magical since we didn’t have them back home. They became for me a symbol of summer in the midwest.
fireflies in the forest, photo from wikimedia commons
They’re still a sign of summer, for me, but fireflies also evoke a different memory for me now. One evening in 2000, I went into labor while at a free outdoor concert, and I remember seeing the first fireflies of the season as we walked back to the car. My little “June Bug” became a “Lightning Bug” at that point. It was June 21st, the first official day of summer, so in my mind, fireflies shouldn’t show up until the first day of summer.
We made an exception this year, since they decided to show up on June 15th. The boys stayed up extra late, running around the neighborhood with friends, trying to catch fireflies. Last day of school, first day of fireflies – what’s not to celebrate? Happy summer, even if the official calendar says we have 5 or 6 more days of spring to go yet!
More about fireflies:
- According to America in So Many Words, as conveyed by answers.com, “lightning bugs” is more commonly used in the US than “fireflies.” Go figure!
- The Wisconsin DNR provides info for kids about fireflies, including an experiment of sorts.
- howstuffworks provides a scientific explanation of bioluminescence.
- And for tech geeks, here’s a networked nightlight based on fireflies.
Firefly is the older, British, and more literary term, but it has lost its glow to the homegrown lightning bug in nearly every corner of the present-day United States, except the Pacific Coast and the far north.