Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lightning In A Bottle

Joel often teases me that I grew up in the 1950's when I share stories of my childhood, full of scavenger hunts and "Kick The Can" until sunset.  What it took him some time to understand, however, was that my childhood was a typical Iowa childhood in the '80s, and that nostalgia is what pushes me to let my kids experience so many of the same things.

A few nights ago, as the kids played outside until the sun started to go down and the lightning bugs came out in full force, I remembered how on hot summer nights, I would occasionally catch a firefly and place it in a jar with some leaves and sticks-- a veritable lightning bug habitat, if you will, and cover the top with a screen to light up my bedroom for a night or two.

(This is not my story of environmental conscientiousness, so please save your objections for some other day when I tell the story about trying to save an injured baby bird by feeding it a feast's worth of bird seed.  Bird seed that turned out to be grass seed.  A good three cups of grass seeds.  This story is nothing.)

After Cael was able to overcome his horror at the thought of his skin being in direct contact with the body of an insect that surely would transmit poison and spear him with stingers and barbs, the race to see who could gently capture a bug or two was on.  As the sky got darker, the task got trickier, but eventually we snared three robust lightning bugs.

This was going to be just like my 1950's childhood.

We placed the bugs in a jar with a little dirt, a little leaves, a little water, a little stick, and a little wood mulch, all of the elements of the great outdoors, and covered the top with one layer of my two-ply paper towel (enough to contain the fireflies but thin enough to let air pass), rubber banded the top on, and nestled in to watch the magic.

Unfortunately, the magic wasn't very magical.  The bugs we caught were a little moody and only lit  up a few times before the boys had to head to bed, so we set the jar on the table and resolved to check it in the morning.

As usual, our morning got busy and it was early afternoon before I remembered to check said jar to release the insects before they died of starvation or overwhelming irritation.  But when I got downstairs, instead of finding a firefly habitat I found an empty jar, a pile of dirt on the carpet, some shredded paper towel, and three suspiciously absent bugs.

All of that and one very shady two year-old.

So much for catching lightning in a bottle.  Sorry, bird.

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