Amanda Pugh : Summer of the Fireflies : Memoir : June 2019

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I am as Southern as grits, biscuits, and gravy, having the double blessing of being brought into this world in the great state of Georgia (Atlanta to be precise) and having my raising in the Volunteer State of Tennessee. I have been educated here and have worked here for all the years I have been able, and even though I have traveled to other places outside the South (aka Heaven) I know in my Georgia Peach heart that there’s no place like home!

Summer of the Fireflies

I was a little girl in single digits when I first remember trying to catch fireflies (or as we say in the South, lightning bugs) with my cousins in the front yard of my grandparents’ house.  Mason jars with the necessary holes poked in the lid in hand, we gleefully stalked the little masterpieces around the darkening yard.  I was fascinated with these little winged creatures with the glow in the dark butts and grinned with delight watching them walk up and down the leaves and assorted twigs we’d put in the jars for their amusement until we decided that the humane thing would be to let them go on about their business.  So, we shook them from the jars and watched them sail away into the twilight, little bug behinds blinking in no discernable pattern.  

I like to think that the blinking was their way of saying “Thanks!  See you next time!”

Summers were endless when I was a kid growing up here in the South.  They were filled with swimming at the local lake (my dad tried to teach me to swim by tossing me in the water, but that only served to terrify me-I learned on my own later), going to visit one set of grandparents in the big city of Memphis and getting to have my pick of goodies at the convenience store across from their house (and learning how to play Pac Man on a traditional arcade console), and then visiting my other set of grandparents who lived in the same county as we did-picking tomatoes still warm from the sunshine and rinsing them off under the garden hose then chowing down on said tomatoes until we felt like busting.  They had other delights in their garden too-corn, cherry tomatoes (as well as the big ones we ate like apples that I just mentioned); radishes, grapes all juicy and purple, peas of all kinds, blackberries so big and fat they’d make the ones you’d get in the store today weep with jealousy, and persimmons on trees in their backyard (don’t knock ‘em until you’ve tried ‘em!) And we got to eat them all (harvesting them was a pain but the payoff was great.)

And then… we grew up.

My grandparents are all gone now, and the gardens and city visits of my childhood are relegated to my past. The house my Memphis grandparents lived in was torn down years ago, the hill it sat one razed to street level.  My other grandparents’ house had someone else living in it.  The convenience store in Memphis where I learned to play Pac Man is gone too, burned down…the garden of my other grandparents is an empty field-the current owners of their house have no time or inclination to fool with a garden now.

Everyone, including me, stays so busy…

But every now and then, I see fireflies and I remember…and I smile.