“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien from Goodreads
The sun had turned down the furnace and dusk approached with a hint of a breeze and clear skies. The girls’ excitement mounted when darkness inched its way into the neighborhood. Daddy had bought poppers and fireworks at the supermarket in an attempt to recreate for them the memories of his childhood celebrations. It was the Fourth of July!
After the poppers, the girls reluctantly agreed to sit with Mommy in their camp chairs to watch Daddy from a safe distance. The fact that they weren’t hands on didn’t hamper the enthusiasm and the chatter. When Daddy wasn’t setting them off quickly enough like the ones at the park, they cried, “Don’t you have one more Daddy?” In the neighborhood, we could hear other families cracking and popping small arsenals. Not far away, small rockets exploded into the air showering the night sky with colorful stars high above the trees. It all looked magical against the silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I was quickly caught up in the excitement of our mini celebration. When our fireworks display was over, we noticed fireflies or lightning bugs in the dark spaces between the houses. As you may know, I was raised a city kid, and nature never ceases to amaze me. We didn’t have fireflies in our asphalt jungles. All of a sudden, I couldn’t help myself; I was in the moment and on the edge of reality again. I said to my granddaughters, “Did you know that some people think that fireflies might be fairies in disguise?”
The girls are at that age when a vivid imagination is easy to access. They teeter between knowing what is real and wanting to believe in impossible fantasies. I thought we could have some fun picturing little fairies buzzing around while fireworks were still going off in the distance – sort of like Disney… maybe. With all my enthusiasm, I forgot that one of my granddaughters, Catie Dee, wants nothing to do with bugs; while Anelie Rose, is a future crafty, horse-riding, flute playing art teacher and ninja scientist who is always trying to figure the why of things.
Instead of just marveling at the thought that there were fairies all around us, Anelie Rose wanted to catch one to see if it was true what people say. She promptly went back into the garage to grab a net and with determination announced that she was ready to start the hunt. Catie Dee stood there with a frozen smile and fear in her moss green eyes, but she dutifully followed her big sister. Anelie Rose didn’t have much luck with the net, but Mom almost caught one with her bare hands. Daddy remembered that when he was a kid, they caught lightning bugs in clear plastic cups to see them when they light up. Unfortunately, there weren’t any around us now. The fairies noticed that humans were trying to nab them.
We spotted what seemed to be a fairy picnic across the street. The fireflies lit up the trees as if it were Christmas; surely they could catch one there. Off they went to the edge of the woods with the net and two clear plastic cups. Daddy did catch one but when the girls took a closer look, it was still just a bug, and it didn’t even look like it had a light. We all decided it was best to let it go assuming it was probably too afraid to light up and much less to change into a fairy. As it flew away, we saw its little light glowing in the dark.
We were heading into the house for the night, making comments that we were glad the lightning bug or fairy was OK. All of a sudden Anelie Rose announced: “I have an idea; we’ll set a trap!” She was adamant about wanting to see for herself whether lightning bugs turn into lightning fairies. She had the idea to tie up one of the ornamental fairies from the flower garden, put it in the net and place it on the bushes. She expected that the other fairies would try to rescue their friend and one was bound to get caught in the net. She and Daddy went back out to set the trap while little Catie Dee came in the house with us. She had enough of chasing bugs to last her a lifetime.
The next morning while her dad was still asleep, Anelie Rose came into the guest room and asked me to go with her to check the trap. At first, she was disappointed because she hadn’t caught anything, but as she started to take it down, she said: “Wait a minute, it looks like the yarn is loose. They must have tried to untie her to set her free but couldn’t, and so they left. They will probably be back. I’ll try again tonight.”
She continued to set traps for three or four nights without catching anything. She asked her dad to look online for more ideas. Each night she and her dad tried another plan without success. Each morning she found another clue that made her think there had been another rescue attempt. She proceeded to explain the reason for her insistence. “If you catch a fairy; she will grant you a wish, and I know exactly what I’m going to wish for.” Convinced that she was getting closer to catching a fairy, she persisted. It was breaking my heart, and I was feeling guilty about mentioning the firefly fairies in the first place.
I was feeling guiltier still when told me that her special wish was the driving force behind her patience and persistence. She wanted to wish that I would come back again soon for a more extended visit – maybe a year or more. Aww, my sweet and innocent precious little girl; I felt awful. Later, her Mom and I reminisced about that Christmas Eve when she and her sister had spied on me and caught me bringing wrapped presents up from the basement with tags that read “Merry Christmas, Love Santa.” They were both so angry that I had lied to them about Santa Claus. Her sister told me she felt like a fool in school when at eight and a half years old, she still believed in Santa. (My bad.) “What else have you lied to us about?” They demanded. They got bikes and more Barbies that year. I think they are over it. It was fun to remember, but Mom wanted no part of the scam on her daughter.
On our way to the airport, Anelie Rose jumped into the car with a pad and pencil. “On the drive over, maybe we can come up with a list of other things that might work for our trap,” I suggested they get a play cookie or a cupcake and put it in the net. I’d heard fairies liked sweets and their play food looks almost real. She looked at me incredulously; I had suggested that before but she didn’t think that would work. She put her things down and said: “That’s okay; Daddy and I will come up with something else later.” I could imagine Catie Dee rolling her eyes from the back seat. She didn’t understand her sister’s mission. All she could see were the bugs; she couldn’t imagine anything past that. I’ll bet she hoped her sister would forget about it once I was gone.
The next day, when I was home, I got a call from my daughter, “Anelie Rose wants to FaceTime; she has something to show you.” After our usual greetings and I miss you more; and before her sister could get to the phone, she burst out: “Guess what?” She put two figures in front of the camera and in one breath said: “We caught two fairies! Daddy looked it up, and it said that fairies turn into statues when they get caught. Look, the wings are clear. And I already got a wish granted! I wished to be able to FaceTime with you, and we are doing it! We are going to let them go tonight, but I wanted to show you first.” What could I say? “Wow! That’s fantastic! They look beautiful.”
It appears that her dad was feeling bad for her too. He decided to get a fairy figurine from the fairy village collection at the local craft store. She was so excited. Her idea was a success! That evening even Catie Dee got involved in the fairy sendoff; after all, they were no longer bugs.
What fun! I see a trip in my future. I guess maybe I should start packing my bags.
One thought on “Fireflies and Fantasy on the Fourth of July”
Best pack some fairies, too. Just in case…
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