Twinkle twinkle little bug

Features Columnist

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

It’s happening again, I noticed just the other night. The luciferin is combining with adenosine triphosphate and making luciferyl adenylate and pyrophosphate on the surface of the luciferase enzyme. Then the luciferyl adenylate is getting together with oxygen to form oxyluciferin and adenosine monophosphate. Over and over and over again.

There it is… and there… and, oh, look over there.

I’d forgotten how much I love lightning bugs.

I guess I never thought about what made them glow, that there was really a scientific, biological explanation to how they twinkle through the branches and leaves and tall grass. I’m still surprised and, admittedly, a tad giddy every time I see the first lightning bug of summer. Somehow it makes me feel like all is right with the world, at least for the little while that I sit outside on the steps and watch them quietly dance through the bushes. Like magic. A little never hurt anybody.

I used to think they were fairies, teeny tiny fairies dancing through our backyard. I also used to think that they could talk, but I might better not admit to that. I’m really beginning to worry about myself as a small child.

A playground discussion about lightning bugs turned ugly, I recall, when someone called them fireflies. One group proclaimed they were called lightning bugs while the other vehemently argued for fireflies. A teacher found us arguing and assured us that they could be called both, but I knew better. My granddaddy called them lightning bugs. Poor firefly people, they just didn’t know any better.

I don’t remember the last time I tried to catch a lightning bug, but I remember some of the first. A mason jar with a lid and a knife were all you needed. After mama assured me the knife was to poke holes in the lid and not to cut up the lightning bug fairy, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I went to running. All around the yard. Through the bushes and around the swing set. When that didn’t work and I got discouraged, mama gave me some advice.

Be calm, she said. Let them come to you.

And that’s how I caught my first lightning bug, by letting it come to me. Patience and a little prayer worked. And while some folks preferred catching them in the jar and putting the lid on quickly, I liked it the old fashioned way. I cupped my hands and gently closed them around the little twinkle, then let it go in the jar already lined with long blades of grass, a carefully placed stick or two, and some big droplets of water. A lightning bug apartment. Then I’d set it on the porch and watch it twinkle. Again and again and again.

I hated to let it go. But I did.

More nights than I can count each summer that would be my evening fun. After supper. Patience and prayer were the rule for the most part, but I will admit to running like a mad woman through the boxwood to catch one or two… okay, maybe more.

And each night I would swear that the one I caught was the exact same one I had caught the night before. It liked me best. It looked for me to come out after supper and play. It was my own personal lightning bug that, even when I was at Grandaddy’s house or Grandmama’s house and we’d be out in the yard watching watching them twinkle in the hydrangea and magnolia leaves, there it would be. My lightning bug. He followed me.

Summer memories are some of the best. I probably should have known that lightning bug didn’t fly a few miles down the road just to find me. I should have known, but I preferred instead to believe in magic.

A little never hurt anybody.

Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.