Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Sept. 28, 2007

The last lightning bug

"I wish we had chairs in the front yard," youngest daughter Katie proclaimed. "Then we could stay out here until the stars come out."

She had just finished mowing the yard, complaining the whole time about the spiders she encountered. Their large sticky webs were anchored to the evergreens on the west side of the house and were strung out along the bushes on the east side as well. Each time Katie ran into one, she made some comment about not liking the critters. I smiled. What had happened to the daughter who once kept roly-polys, caterpillars and lightning bugs in her room?

"But spiders are different," she protested. "They have eight legs and they're creepy."

While Katie mowed, I picked up stray branches and flung them out of her way, trimmed a couple of bushes, and pulled weeds along the edges of the driveway. It felt good to be doing some physical labor after several busy weeks at my University job. But while it had been a perfect calm, warm day, I knew I had a list of chores a mile long I wanted to get done before hitting the sack.

But when Katie said she wanted to stop to watch the stars come out, I knew it was one of those moments I had to help make happen.

"We can get some of the chairs from the deck and put them out here," I said.

We have a nice deck at the back of our house, but the lattice "roof" across the top and the multiple shade trees that surround it mean the view of the sky is obscured.

Katie hesitated. I knew she was tired after a long, busy day, just like I was. Neither of us really wanted to drag the chairs from the deck to the front. For a minute, I was sure one or both of us would just decide to go inside.

But again, something told me that we should just do it.

"We really don't need chairs," I said. "Let's just lie down on the driveway."

So we did. We talked for a bit and Katie even showed me a couple of exercises she's been doing in PE in school. As it darkened, our neighbors' motion lights, car lights and house lights bothered us. Then we could hear the whining of mosquitoes near our ears. But we were determined not to let these annoyances keep us from enjoying the "show."

Soon the trees were silhouettes against the darkening sky. The birds quieted down and the toads and crickets took over. Katie pointed out the first stars.

Then I saw a moving light out of the corner of my eye. "A lightning bug," I exclaimed. "I thought lightning bugs were gone by now."

We sat up and looked around, but didn't see any others. "Oh, it must be lonely," Katie replied.

We stayed out on the driveway for a little more than half an hour and then moved to the deck, where the bright moon lit up the sky. After a few minutes, Katie decided to go inside and I reluctantly followed her.

Then it struck me. We had just watched the stars come out on the last day of summer. Tomorrow was the autumnal equinox - the official start of fall. Perhaps we had both been aware somewhere deep inside that this day was just a little special - special because it won't be long before it will be too cold to be serenaded by crickets, to see lightning bugs or to just lie down outside and watch the stars come out.

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