Fireflies by Richard D Ramsey
by Richard D Ramsey
Sadie pushed open the screen door and ran out into her backyard. The old rusty spring creaked as it pulled the light wood back and slammed it against the frame. This was her favorite time, early dusk in the spring when the air was cool and the sky was clear. Crickets chirped somewhere in the distance and bats began to dip and swirl from the treetops.
“Don’t stay out too late, you gotta wash up for bed, now.” Her mother’s voice rang through the old screen door.
“Okay, mama. I’m just gonna look at the stars again.”
Through the old door she could see her mother drying dishes at the sink, but her eyes weren’t on the job at hand. She was watching Sadie on her regular routine of watching the night sky come alive.
The grass parted in the magical way that it does for children’s bare feet. Nature often welcomes the tenderness of stumpy, kids’ toes. The blades were just tall enough to tickle her ankles and whisk as she ran through them. Her favorite spot was right at the end of her yard, close to the tree line. From here the tall, tall pines parted in just the right way so she could see the western horizon as the sky faded from bright blue to a warm periwinkle and then to a mystical cobalt. Sadie always liked the word periwinkle, it made her laugh when she thought about it.
Sadie laid down in the grass awaiting the symphony of lights. It tickled her back through her light clothing, but she didn’t mind. It was all worth the itch.
One by one, the stars started to form in the evening sky. As always, they were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen and everything else was washed from her mid. Brittany was first, she was always first. Sadie had named as many of them as she could, until she ran out of names. Brittany was sneaky, she always showed up when you were looking away. “Hello, Brittney.”
Next was Tabitha and then Gertie. “Hello Tabitha, hello Gertie.” After Gertie they usually joined the party too fast to greet them all. Faster and faster they blinked into existence and twinkled their brilliance. Sadie always thought that this was there way of saying hello! She raised her hands into the air and waved back.
They were all so far away, way up in the sky. Sadie’s papa always said that they were so far away that no one would ever touch them, but she was sure she would one day. Her arms were little girl arms right now and very short but she was growing and one day she would grow and grow and she would touch one of the stars, she was sure of it. Night after night she stretched her arms up into the sky to see if that was the day that she would touch one of the stars she loved so much.
Years went by and Sadie grew bigger, but her love for the stars never wavered. Every spring her fingers were a little bit longer and a little bit slimmer, but they never were quite long enough to reach the sky, until the day she finally did.
One of her fingers bumped a star and it moved. It was one she hadn’t seen before and it quickly scurried away. She tried again and it came back, touching her finger instead of her touching it. Sadie sat up and took a closer look, it was a firefly! She loved fireflies! Not quite as much as stars, but they were the next best thing. Her arms had never been long enough to reach fireflies before, but they were now. She stood and looked about her yard at the edge of the treeline where she always laid. Fireflies danced through the night, blinking their little yellow lights off and on and off and on. It was like they were singing in their own special way.
Sadie danced that night with the fireflies until it was time to wash up for bed. Her mama called her in and she bode her new friends a good night.
Every night at dusk she came outside and danced with the fireflies. They landed on her arms and they landed on her head and she giggled at their antics. They flashed little specks of yellow all throughout the yard and it was the most beautiful thing Sadie had ever seen.
Spring soon faded as seasons are wont to do and summer came. The fireflies danced and careened all summer long to little Sadie’s enjoyment. When fall came, the fireflies went away. Sadie was sad, but she new they would be back next year.
The next year came and Sadie’s arms were just a little bit longer. The fireflies came back and danced with Sadie until her mama called her in for bed. She didn’t want to go to bed, she just wanted to play with her friends. So, one day she spied an old, old pickle jar in the back of their pantry. Pickles were yucky, but her brother liked them. She asked her mama if she could have the jar when all the pickles were gone.
“Why, whatever do you want a pickle jar for?”
Her mama laughed. “I guess, so. Just don’t go breaking it and cutting yourself on the glass.”
Sadie’s brother took forever eating all the pickles. She would check the jar every day and count them. If one wasn’t missing she’d call to her brother and ask if he wanted one that day or not. Eventually they were all eaten. She had to wash that pickle jar four times to get the smell out, but it finally was gone.
That night, Sadie caught as many fireflies as she could and placed them in the jar. She put some leaves in the bottom so they would have a place to sleep and she poked some holes in the lid so they could breathe, she was making them a little home. Knowing her papa would not be pleased, she put it far in the back of her closet so her parents would be sure to not find it. Every night when her mama sent her to bed, she would get out her jar of fireflies and watch them dance and flash and dance and flash.
Sadie read them stories and she sang to them and she loved each and every one of them dearly. She decided to give them all a name. All of the girls were named Glenda and all of the boys were named Charlie. Charlie was her favorite name. She couldn’t tell the Glenda’s and the Charlie’s apart, but that was okay because she couldn’t tell the boys and girls apart, either.
One of her favorite things to do was to have a little firefly wedding. She would pick one Glenda and one Charlie and they would have a little ceremony right there in the pickle jar. She would say “Do you Charlie take Glenda to be your lawfully wedded firefly wife forever and ever?” Charlie would flash a bright yellow in response. “Do you Glenda take Charlie to be your lawfully wedded firefly husband forever and ever?” Glenda blinked her light with glee. “Okay, then. By the power vested in me by my mama and my papa I now pronounce you firefly husband and wife.” They danced at their wedding reception and Sadie giggled in delight.
At night she would hold the jar close to her body as she drifted off to sleep. The fireflies flew and danced all night long like a nightlight keeping her safe.
Eventually Sadie began to grow up as little girls are wont to do. Her short arms grew into longer and more slender young lady arms and her stumpy little toes grew into delicate young lady toes. She still talked to the fireflies, but not as much as she used to. She would take them out at Christmas or on her birthday and show them what she had got. All the Glendas and all the Charlies danced and shone their fabulous lights until she put them away in the back of her closet. There were other things now she needed to tend to, like girls her own age or boys.
Sometimes she would take her fireflies out and talk to them about boys. At her school there were cute ones and there were funny ones and they were all kind of weird and oogey. None of them were named Charlie but there were a few that she liked.
One night there was a boy at the local homecoming dance that broke Sadie’s heart. She came home, got the fireflies out and cried and cried and cried. They listened intently to every word she said and flashed their little beacons to cheer her up. All night long she laid in bed and talked to her fireflies until she finally drifted off and let sleep whisk her away. That was the last time they ever slept in the bed with her.
Sadie eventualy grew all the way up into a young woman. She fell madly in love with a wonderful man who treated her like a queen. His name wasn’t Charlie, but she had loved him so dearly. He asked her to marry him and she said yes, though it was not in a pickle jar. They had a good life that wasn’t spectacular, but no life ever is.
As Sadie blossomed into womanhood she had three marvelous children. None of them were named Glenda, but she loved them all more than she thought she could ever love anything. Years rolled by quicker and quicker and before she knew it her babies were having babies. Little precious bundles that melted her heart and she cried every time she met a new one.
Sadie and her husband grew old together and, as old men are wont to do, he passed away one day in his sleep. His name wasn’t Charlie, but she had loved him so dearly. Her children and her children’s children went about their lives doing their own things. Sadie often forgot where she was or where she was going, but she never forgot her wonderful family and how much they had meant to her.
One day, when Sadie was very, very old, she was awakened from a deep sleep. This was very unusual because old ladies never had deep sleeps. But, she awoke in the night as, old women are wont to do, and she wasn’t sure where she was. It was dark out, but she didn’t know what day it was, either. She cried because she knew she had such wonderful memories and she wanted so dearly to hold on to them, but they seemed to fade away like a blue sky on a spring evening.
Then, she remembered! The fireflies! Her friends! The hopes and the dreams and the joy they had brought to her and she had left them in the back of her closet so, so long ago. Sadie threw the covers back and even though she didn’t really know where she was, she had no trouble finding her closet. There in the back was the old pickle jar from her childhood. With bent, arthritic fingers, she grabbed it by the lid and lifted it out of a pile of rubble. All of the fireflies had long since died. As she had grown she had replaced each one with the necessity of growing old. All of them lay on a bed of leaves at the bottom of the jar…..all but one.
There was one firefly left. When it saw Sadie, it danced and flashed with joy at seeing her after so many years. Sadie couldn’t remember his name, but she was thrilled beyond belief to see her old friend. She clapped her hands and danced about as much as she could on her stumpy old lady toes.
She talked to the firefly all night long and it just listened intently. Memories came rushing back and she told it about her husband. His name wasn’t Charlie, but she had loved him dearly. She told the little firefly about her children and her children’s children and was so, so happy.
Outside the window the night was fading, and the sun was soon to come up. Sadie knew it was time and she knew what she had to do. She pushed open the screen door on her old home and sighed as she heard the old, rusty spring creek.
The grass parted in the magical way that it does for old ladies’ bare feet. Nature often welcomes the tenderness of stumpy, geriatric toes. The blades were just tall enough to tickle her ankles and whisk as she shuffled through them. Her favorite spot was right at the end of her yard, close to the tree line. From here the tall, tall pines parted in just the right way so she could see the western horizon as the sky faded from dark black to a warm periwinkle and then to a bright blue. Sadie always liked the word periwinkle, it made her laugh when she thought about it.
Her old fingers trembling, Sadie twisted the lid and lifted it off, letting the last remaining firefly escape into the twilight. It flew up and up and up so high that she could not reach it with her old lady arms and it became a star again.
As the crickets chirped, the old pickle jar fell to the ground. One by one the stars in the sky bid farewell to the world for one more day.
Judy sat on her back porch, bouncing her daughter Emily on her knee. “You see that star right there? The one that just came alive right over the treetops? That one’s named Sadie. That’s your great grandmother.”
Emily looked at her suspiciously. “Mama, that’s a dumb story.”
Emily put her hands on her hips. “People can’t turn into stars and lightning bugs don’t live forever and no one’s arms are for sure long enough to reach all the way to the sky.”
Judy sighed and dropped her shoulders. “Well, you can chose to believe it or not, but I promise every word is true.”
“I’m gonna go play.” Emily hoped down from her mother’s lap and ran off into the yard.
Judy stood up and hollered after her. “Don’t stay out too late, it’s almost bedtime.”
When she went back outside to collect her daughter, she found her laying on her back, reaching both of her little arms up into the dusk.