Berry-Stained Fingers and Firefly Nights

If I could freeze time, I would capture these summer evenings.
Evening is when everyone in our house becomes alive.  With no central air, we flee outside to soak up whatever breeze we can glean from the humid air.  Pretenses of work inside get turned off for the day, or at least paused momentarily.  Supper is on the porch, usually something off of the grill with fresh fruit and veggies on the side.  We tame the hungry beast in our bellies and fill our eyes with long, straight rows of corn fields.
After supper, already outside, our kids naturally drift to the yard and we follow.  Our evenings, from after supper until dark, slip by all too quickly in the slow, easy way of a summer evening in the country with kids.   Weeding and checking the garden, heading to our windbreak to pick black raspberries, shirtless kids climbing Maple the Maple (yep, they came up with that all by themselves), sweaty ponytails, berry juice dribbles on our baby’s belly, making grassy nests for the snoozing baby chicks, sand scooping and flinging, legs pedalling bikes with increasing strength and confidence, “race ya” barefoot running across wide open lawn…these things fills our evenings.

Bandit the chick snuggled into a soft grass nest made by her 6-year-old caretaker.

Then as the evening cools, the sun sinks behind the trees and the fireflies emerge.  We run on firefly time.  After catching a satisfying amount of fireflies, we head into the house for the evening, often capping off the night with a bowl of ice cream.  After that, we shoo the kids upstairs to the claw foot tub to wash off the sweaty heads and dirty feet.  They put on the bare minimum for pj’s, and migrate to the sun room, turning the ceiling fan on high and throwing open the windows to catch the breeze.
Lately, our kids settle down for a bedtime story from the unwieldy, thick yellow book of The Complete Collection of Curious George.  Jockeying over position on the guest bed (just a mattress on the floor, but oh so cozy), trying to be close, but not so close that we get sweaty, and taking in a little monkey’s adventures with my little monkeys caps off the evening before goodnight hugs and kisses.
Last evening was a rarity in that I actually had two kids in bed before the sun went down.   Our tired baby girl went to bed early since she passed on her afternoon nap, and then I tucked into bed her almost three-year-old brother, who got into a patch of nettles and wanted to call it an evening.  After a full day of holding kids and nursing, I then headed outside to the windbreak all by myself to pick black cap raspberries.
As I left the house, I caught a glimpse of the sunset between the thick pine trees, so I walked to the road to get a better view.  I stood alone on the warm pavement looking out into slowly fading pink-orange sky and rich green corn fields.  After a strong wind all day, I was struck by the sudden calm and utter quiet.  Just before nine at night, there was not a car on our road, and the world seemed at peace.

I headed to the windbreak where the bushes are covered in berries: deep purple and red against verdant green leaves.  It’s the kind of lushness that you drink in and store away to pull out in the dead of winter. The gnats stayed away long enough to pick a big night time snack that I meant to share, but it didn’t quite happen.  I meandered past the neighbor’s sheep who are industriously munching away the overgrown weeds on our land.  In the fading light, too dim by then to pull weeds in the garden, I did a little side saddle hop over electric fence.

When I looked out, the fireflies were everywhere, a profusion of gentle blinking of warm lights across our entire yard.  I don’t know if it’s a particularly good year for fireflies, or if they’re always like this, but they’e magical to me all over again.  Fireflies don’t live in Montana, so I haven’t seen them much in the last 14 years.  Standing in the fading light, throwing berries in my mouth by the handful, contented sheep busy munching, life just felt surreal.  All by myself (also magical), the soft glimmering of fireflies blinked in such an abundance that it looked like the kind of scene from a Holywood movie depicting an imaginary glittering land, only this is all the better because it is real.
And that’s the reality that I want to live in for the summer.  Right now I can’t tell you about the latest of the news headlines, and I don’t really care.  I know that terrorists, wars, arguing over politics, and discussions about the economy and who is to blame will all be there waiting for me whenever I feel like going back to them.
What I do know is that this is summertime, and we are in the midst of the golden years of childhood in our home.  I feel completely blessed to look across the yard and see four small children playing together, inventing games, and watching out for their baby sister.  I also know this doesn’t last.  As quickly as our lives became bustling with children, they are just as quickly going to grow up.  Thirty years from now when my kids grown and long gone, I won’t care one bit about the stresses and messes inherent in the life of a family. Those things fade away. Summer nights of seeing my children grow and flourish amongst berries, fireflies, and running under the sheets on the clothesline are the things I want to etch in my mind.
So, the latest headlines will have to wait.  I’ve got four little kids that aren’t going to be little forever and warm summer days that will quickly fade into fall.  We’ve got a whole lot of living to squeeze into our endless summer days that are all too short.
Written July 2, 2012.

© 2012


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