Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fireflies

512px-Photinus_pyralis_Firefly_glowing

By art farmer from evansville indiana, usa (firefly w/glow) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Thinking of summer memories of growing up in Youngstown.

The amazement as a child that there were insects that glowed in the dark.

Catching them, learning not to crush them so you didn’t get “lightning bug” smell all over your hands.

Putting them in jars, punching holes in the lid, and watching them light up all night.

Remembering a cousin whose lightning bugs “woke up dead” because he forgot to punch the holes.

Trying to catch more than 1867 lightning bugs, the most my brother said he caught, only to find he was “pulling my chain.” But I did it.

That year, I did “catch and release.” Probably caught some of those fireflies twenty times…or thirty. But counted every time a new catch.

Learning that all those flying fireflies were males in search of a female.

Not so different from teenage boys gathered around pretty girls and showing off. Except we didn’t light up. (Well maybe some did…)

A few years pass and the eyes of wonder are our kids’–and still ours as well.

Now we’re the ones digging up jars, and watching them race around the yard at night.

Or declaring it a “catch and release” night.

Now it is sitting on the porch on a summer night. Dusk comes. The first streak of light catches the eye. Then another, and another. Until the meadow is winking hundreds of points of light.

Fireflies. Lightning bugs. Whatever you call them they are a wonder. And they take me back to my old backyard.

In Youngstown.

5 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fireflies

  1. Thanks again Bob. We also used to make engagement rings of unfortunate fireflies, but no one married. Strangely almost Shakespearean

  2. Great comments about Fireflies Bob. I especially liked the part about the males not lighting up (well maybe some did). As a photochemist, I have a deep fascination with them, and clearly recall one night when I was driving near Amarillo, TX and hit one with my windshield. It kept glowing for about 45 minutes. (The chemistry is amazing, as is the sensitivity of the human eye to low light levels.)

    I really enjoy your blog, read it religiously (almost), and find it extremely useful in ferreting out books I may choose to get.

    If you are ever down Dayton-way again, please look me up. I’d love to buy you lunch and catch up a bit face-to-face.

    • Mark, thanks for writing, and adding your insights about the photochemistry of fireflies. And likewise, thank you for the invite. You should likewise let me know if you are in Columbus.

  3. Having moved here from the PNW, one of the things I love about summer in Columbus is the lighting bugs. I feel that same sense of wonder every time I see them.

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