I never did like school all that much. I suppose that puts me in the majority. However, I never felt that way. Whether I intently tried to be unique or simply was a little eccentric, in my childhood mind, I believed I was different.
Trending, well, back then we went through “fads”, was not my style. To tell the truth, I think such conformity simply bored me. Ha! That’s a lie! It scared me! I could never measure up. So this shy “different” little girl silently, timidly, and cautiously meandered through hopscotch, build a wall, flip cards, jacks, kickball, hitsies, jump rope rhymes and all those other recess charms.
I loved kickball! That’s normal. Isn’t it?
In the classroom, I quietly and dutifully did my work. Fortunately, most subjects came easily to me leaving time to daydream. But, one annual frustration was the ever dreaded Science Fair! Perhaps, again, my nonconformist persona forced me to put pressure on myself to come up with the model no one has built before or the solar system in a display like no other. Who doesn’t want to have the best exhibit? It was eighth grade! …my last project of elementary school.
I wanted the best. That’s normal. Isn’t it?
I chose the lightning bug. Having found the perfectly shaped model, I cut away at the Palmolive bottle. I painted. I poked and glued. I took apart things and reconnected things….until no more could be done. Project complete! And then, that “Leave It to Beaver” moment of truth creeps in. That moment when all that you had imagined for yourself fades away leaving the starkness of reality before you…Sitting right there before you on the dining room table. Heaped upon heaps of ripped newspaper. Staring at me with black dripping eyes, I see it. That sorely painted Palmolive bottle reflected not one flicker of the lightning bug magic I had so wanted to convey. The flashlight bulb rhythmically blinked on and off, but any luminosity and brilliance was dulled by the heavy coat of tempera I had put on. Layer after layer slathered on before the previous stroke would begin to crackle and peel. Peeling and Crackling. Painting and Slathering. It was the crudest, the ugliest and the saddest piece of “science-art” I had ever made. That night,
I hated my “Stupid ugly lightning bug!” That’s normal. Isn’t it?
Many a summer’s night has come and gone since then. How many thousands of lightning bug flashes measured from youth? In the warmth of a July breeze I still find them. I see them. Winking and blinking a sweet smile to my face. Their courting light patterns beckon a mate…in ALL those tiny fragile flying beetles, glows a light made for one other. With a signal back, she gives her presence. The two actually find each other! How spectacular! Over soft grasses, between flight paths and light flashes in the meadows, they find each other.
As a child we gathered them, cupping them into our hands. In my mind’s eye I see silhouetted children flitting about. Laughter and giggles for all the lightning delight. And then a cheer. “I got one!” Gathering to witness or even a chance to hold, a hush of awe stills us. Huddle together. Sockets wide-eyed in the dewy darkness. Waiting. Waiting for the lucky captor to open the night. And with a gasp of a miracle, we hear the quietest sound in the world as we blink in the green glowing belly of light. Or is it yellow? Or white? And how does it flash?
In the prepared mason jar whose lid has been dotted with pinholes, we release the miracle upon the leafy sprig. Quickly twisting the cover, the tin lid whistles to closure. One by one, we take turns as host while the others fall into step behind. The memory of silence, wonder and light captured within a jar brings to me nothing less than a notion. A notion, of destiny blinked out specifically, one for another. A notion of infinity in a journey of life…a small brief life. A notion of normalcy and all that’s right.
As we all remember of fireflies and mason jars.