The Lightening Bugs

When we were all a little younger my father realized he was sick of living in the deep south and resolved to do something about it. He moved my little sister and I to the farthest place our hands could reach on a map; somewhere mom’s hurricane couldn’t hit. Before my father left we helped him capture three lightning bugs, one for each of us. We put them in an old jam jar he had found in the basement. When I asked him how he knew the jar was there he said he had come across the glass in a dream, that he was drawn to the cool, crisp way the glass felt against his palms, that he basked in the release he felt as he picked it out among her things. He visited our hometown-to-be and planted the lightning bugs in the woods as if they were seeds for our new life. He found a spot where the rain-soaked soil was rich with earthworms and moss and bought five acres of it. He said he had never smelled ground as rich as where he planted the bugs, so he knew he had found our new home. While my father buried the bugs deep into the earth he used his two hands to paw away patches of dirt and decomposed ferns. He whispered to the lightning bugs that he would be back, that he was bringing his little girls with him, and that he hoped they would still be around to meet us when he returned.

 

When we arrived it was night and the only thing we could see from the windows of the plane were raindrops and scattered lights along the coast. My father placed me on the ground, my bare feet sinking into the mud, the cold of the earth filling in the spaces between my toes. I became rooted. Years later when my sister dug up the jar of dead lightning bugs she dumped each one back into the hole in the earth that had become their home and then buried them again. That time she kept the jar for herself.