Nothings zips me back to childhood quite like spotting the first lightning bug of the season. It happened tonight, as I was being an adult and gathering up some things I had left in the back yard during the heat of the day.
As my mental to-do list chattered away, I saw it: Bink! A tiny yellow light floating about knee-high.
I stopped, and my to-do list got quiet. For a few seconds I just watched the light blink on and off, and remembered the magic of catching fireflies: watching them glow in the cup of your hands, or tracking one in flight and feeling that feathery tickle when it lands on your arm. I did it as a child, and I did it as a mom. It's a tradition passed down to each generation, like jumping in the leaf pile or making snow angels.
One summer, back in the '90s, we had family visiting from Washington state. We took a long walk around the neighborhood after dinner one night, and before long we were strolling in the dark. Suddenly one of our visitors stopped, perplexed. He asked what those lights were.
As I realized he was talking about lightning bugs, it was my turn to be confused. How could he not know what lightning bugs were? Simple. He said they don't have them in Washington state, and he and his mom, who were visiting the East for the first time, had never seen one before.
I had no idea my favorite insect had such a limited territory.
Once back home I did my research, and discovered that indeed, lightning bugs basically stay east of Kansas. Half the country is firefly-free.
I'm glad I live in the other half.