Emily Parnell — As we savor the passing moments, how brightly they shine

09/17/2013 5:21 PM

09/17/2013 5:21 PM

I love lightning bugs, the flashy insect celebrities who shine and sparkle in the evening hours. The first sighting of the season is a magical moment: It causes me to sigh with delight. Our family chases them through the grass, collecting them, then we watch them fly away to mingle with the stars above. (We stress kindness to animals in our clan, so my kids don’t rip off their illuminated bottoms and smear glow juice on their skin, in the name of humanity. Although it’s a cool trick.)

This year, we learned that fireflies aren’t the only bugs that sparkle in the night. Other bugs share that spotlight. We took a camping trip with friends early this summer, and the kids and the dads attended a class on bugs while the moms relaxed by the fire. That night, we climbed into our tent, and my husband surveyed the tent with a flashlight.

“Hmm,” he said. “I found a spider.” He removed it from our tent.

“How did you find that?” I asked. It was in a far corner. I would not have noticed it.

He shined his light on his face to cast spooky shadows, like he was telling a ghost story, and said ominously, “I saw its eyes.”

I scoffed. “Whatever.” I wasn’t going to fall for his spider-eye malarkey.

The next evening, though, I found out he wasn’t fibbing. One thing they learned in the bug class was how to find spiders at night by shining a flashlight into the grass and searching for their eyes. They show up as little diamond pinpoints, gleaming in the grass.

I was still a skeptic. That is, until they put a flashlight in my hands and told me to hold it close to the side of my face, and shine it at the ground. They said I’d see reflective pinpoints shining on the ground like diamonds. When I found one, I should get closer and inspect one. Within 60 seconds, I’d located myself a big ol’ wolf spider. Not just that, I’d found a new hobby.

On any given night, I’ll spray some bug spray on my ankles and head out to the yard, flashlight in hand, to search out spider eyes. Sometimes my family joins me, other times I go by myself after the kids go to bed. I’ve been known to bring a glass of wine along. I search, I spy, I move on.

The other night, we were showing the kids’ friend our newfound trick. The children traipsed through the yard oohing and ahhing. “I found one!” they hollered into the night each time they spied eyes.

I sat by our fire pit while the kids hunted, and it occurred to me that something was missing. There were no lightning bugs. Their season had ended unnoticed.

I never know I’m seeing the last lightning bug of the season. One night, their numbers are dwindling. And then another night, I look around and see they’re gone. Other things had stolen their spotlight. How long have the fireflies been gone? Has it been a week? Two? Maybe a month?

It’s easy to be enthralled by new things, and much harder to notice the end of a season. I don’t remember the last time I changed a diaper, the day my toddler quit crawling, or the last time my infant burst into hysterical giggles when daddy came at them with “the claw” to tickle them. Those moments are lost to me.

I do remember the firsts, though. Their first steps, their first tooth — and the day they lost that same first tooth. I guess it’s not important to remember the day those things were over, as long as we can remember how they delighted us throughout their seasons, how brightly they could shine.

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