Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Revisiting the Summer of '61

Tonight when I took Jake outside one last time before bed, I was amazed by the lightening bugs in my backyard. I don't remember seeing this many since I was a kid. All of a sudden, I was ten years old again. I could smell fresh cut grass, Mercurochrome, lemonade and Off mosquito spray!

It was wonderful to relive memories long forgotten had it not been for the lightening bugs. Now I know most people refer to them as fireflies and that may be correct, but growing up in the small town of McKinney, I never heard anyone refer to them as anything else. They were lightening bugs made to be caught by small children and kept in a mason jar with a tin lid punched full of tiny air holes.

Growing up in a small town as I did, summer was a magical time. We played outside from can till can't, coming inside only during the real heat of the day for an afternoon nap, then back outside in the evening. All the parents on our street would sit on their front porches (backyards were for clothesline, not visiting) or on the grass in aluminum lawn chairs watching the kids play and visiting back and forth. Occasionally, one of the dads would pitch a whiffle ball game for us or act as the umpire while a mother would drag out and crank an ice cream freezer full of bananas, nuts, vanilla and cream.

It was a time of dirty, bare feet toughened over summer until we could walk on glass and never feel a thing. Shoes were only for church or special occasions. We were allowed absolute freedom in our kingdom of one city block. We knew no fear. Knees were made for skinning, trees for climbing and ditches for catching crawdads after a summer rain.

I feel sorry for children today. Parents want to wrap their children in saran wrap, sanitize everything and protect them from the world. It's sad that the world is no longer safe for children and even sadder that children don't have the same carefree childhood we did. They stay in an air conditioned home, watching endless TV or playing video games when they need to be outside. Their activities are organized by parents who enroll them in summer camps for everything from swimming to science. They aren't encouraged to use their own imaginations or allowed to just be. But tomorrow night when my granddaughter comes over, I think I will spray her down with Off and we'll sit outside, count stars and wait for the lightening bugs.


  1. Your post brought back memories. I was 10 years old in 1951, but other than that difference I remember everything you said. It certainly brings back memories of a more carefree time.

  2. Hey Debbie, I kind of stumbled across this blog of yours and really like the above story. I only saw lightening bugs once in my life, me being a California girl. We went to visit my dad's family in Missouri. I was totally in awe as a little girl with the lightening bugs in, yes, a mason jar. That was the same night that it thundered so loud, it scared the shit out of me. Wish we had lightening bugs out here so I could catch some with Riley and Morgan.

  3. Times have changed. It makes me think will it keep changing until it once again comes full circle. I lived outside in the 70's when I was a kid. Mom sent me outside in the morning, made a brief pitstop for lunch and then back for dinner. That was the life. I agree--parents are to sheltering. I get grief from friends because my kids climb everything--what else are they supposed to do?

    Super post today Debbie!

    P.S. I have never seen a lighting bug--one day I hope to see one in real life!