By Michael Leach
Magic lanterns hover then zig-zag over the lawn. Giggles and whispers and cricket serenades fill the night air. The yellow flashes of pinpoint lights inside the lanterns are too dim to illumine the smiles and looks of wonder.
Flashes of light are everywhere. Miniature hands reach out, gently enclose a blinking star that flew down from the sky so far above.
The star hunters are barefoot and step lightly in the cool, grass. Baths await, but for now the tiny green soles rejoice in the sensation of walking on silk, watered by the dew of heaven. They don’t know it, but bare feet on dewy, soft grass will bring them back here in an instant, back to collecting flying stars on a warm, velvet night.
Old mayonnaise jars, with a layer of clover, grass and leaves on the bottom, are sealed with lids. A dozen air holes were punched into the lids with a nail before the hunt began. This gives the little stars breath and food for the night. They will be released come morning. Perhaps the little hands will catch some of the same stars again.
The children don’t want to believe the lights are insects. They can’t picture lightening bugs emerging from the lawn, the flowers in the tidy, colorful borders, or the hay field beyond the fence. They will believe this in only a year or so. For now, these are winged stars making an ever-changing constellation called Summer Memory.
Near the rented vacation farm house runs a little creek; its cold water, so welcome after playing in the hot sun, then wading knee deep. Toes squishing in the muddy area of the bank.
There’s squealing, splashing, squealing. Delight fills the languid, humid air.
A rope swing dangles temptingly from the fat, black tree branch overhanging the wide part of the creek. The water here is deep enough for a comfortable landing when dropping from the swing, but not too deep. Besides the children are good swimmers, and the adults are as close and cautious as a cardinal’s parents when it’s just out of the nest.
Memories will return at the sight of a massive tree limb overhanging a slow-poke creek. The best summer memories last a lifetime. They return now and then, even in winter. Magic lanterns never lose their glow.
The Back Story — I wrote this as an assignment for the Grove City (OH) Writers Group: “Describe the best summer of your childhood.” Almost the same day the assignment came, I heard an account from my sister of the “adventures” my great-nieces and great-nephew, ages 7, 5 and 3, savored at rented farm house near Asheville, NC. Hearing about hunting lightening bugs and playing in a creek brought back memories of similar summer escapades. Perhaps you, too, have summer memories to share with us.