Thursday, May 25, 2006
I had to do a double take last night when I stepped outside on the way to the shed with a bag of trash. Sure enough, my eyes weren't deceiving me. For out there in the back yard were a few fireflies, or lightning bugs as we like to call them.
....I paused, remembering when I was a young lad. I used to picture these insects carrying little tiny Coleman lanterns. I even imagined that some of them were wearing mining helmets with lights. Lightning bugs were Mother Nature's crossing guards, making everything safe for all the other flying bugs.
....My memories then fast-forwarded to a more recent time, albeit it was still thirty-three years before the present. I was in New York on a business trip. As was the routine when I was out of town, I would call home to say good night to my four-year-old daughter.
....On that particular night, her weeping voice stammering from holding back tears, she told me all about the personal tragedy that had befallen her. It seeems that the lightning bugs in the jar on her bedroom dresser needed new batteries.
....It took me but a trice to realize that my wife had been reluctant to tell her that the insects had died. The situation was made more delicate by the fact that she had neglected to punch air holes in the jar lid. Rather than have our daughter believe that her mother had "killed" them, my wife took an easy way out saying, "They need new batteries, honey. It's too late to go to the store tonight." I had surmised correctly that she'd also said to her, "Your Daddy will bring some home tomorrow night."
....Yes, it was one of those innocent over-protective methods of bringing up children in the early seventies. Sensitive issues were often handled with kid-gloves by telling them little white fibs until they were old enough to understand.
...."Yes," I promised before she handed the phone to mommy, "Daddy will bring some new batteries for your lightning bugs."
When my wife had taken the phone I said, "Thanks a lot! ...And just where do think I'm going to find "batteries" by tomorrow evening?" The last query was in jest because I knew she was still within an earshot of our daughter. (This was before cordless telephones.) Far be it for me to put her on the spot!
....I was back in Boston the next afternoon, the shuttle landing at Logan airport around four o'clock. My original agenda would have had me jumping on a Blue Line train into downtown Boston to the State Street Station and transferring to an Orange Line train north to Everett Station. After a short ride on the bus, I would have been home in time for supper.
....Because of the "battery crisis," I had to sneak into my driveway, start my car and take off to the "battery store," hopefully without my daughter realizing I had been there. The "battery store" was actually a marshy area off the Lynn Marsh Way about five miles from our house. In my carry-on flight bag was a gift I had picked up for my daughter in New York. It was a custom that I would always bring Gretchen a little gift when I returned home from those business trips. This time I had a nice snow globe featuring a Statue of Liberty and a New York City skyline.
....Alas, that night I had to bring home some "batteries" too. Alas and alack, it was only when I arrived at the marsh that it dawned upon me that I had no jar! (I had not heeded the instructions in the Parenting Manual to always make sure that an empty "lightning bug jar" is always close at hand.)
....I was in a quandary. The nearest stores were at least a ten-mile round-trip away from where I sat. I knew I could buy a six-pack of Mason canning jars, but that presented another problem. I had no cash money on me, the check book was home, and the only credit card on my person was a company-issued one. I did not relish the thought of explaining a purchase of canning jars to the Accounting Department next month.
....To this day, I still find it ironic that Lady Liberty would come to my rescue. It was an insane idea! I was turning the snow globe in my hand, studying it from every conceivable angle. I reiterate, I was in a quandary. The glass globe housing the statue was a little larger than a regulation softball.
....Lo and behold! It was tight, but the globe was actually screwed into the base! I didn't have to consider breaking the base to free the globe. Holding it upside down, I twisted the two pieces until they had separated. I opened the car door and promptly dumped the liquid from the globe. As I stepped from the car and made my way to the marsh, I was faced with one remaining obstacle. It was still daylight, the sun three hours away from setting.
....Everyone knows that lightning bugs are nocturnal insects. They only fly at night. My obstacle was to try to find them in their safe daylight havens. They could be in a tree or in a hollow stump, neither of which were anywhere near my location. Experience as a youth had taught me that they will also hide on the underside of leaves and tall grasses. Tall grasses I had and then some. I was fortunate that I had guessed correctly that they would more than likely congregate near the road, as opposed to the other end of the marsh closest to the ocean. I had reckoned that they wouldn't be very fond of salty grass.
....With the exception of stepping into a "cut" in the marsh up to my knees, the "battery-shopping" was fruitful. When I returned to the car, my hand cupping the open end of the globe to prevent my bounty from escaping, I turned it upside down onto the hood. From my bag, I removed some aluminum foil from around a tube of toothpaste which was secured with a rubber band. The foil, held in place with the rubber band, made a serviceable lid for the globe. After punching a few holes in the foil with my pen, I sat back and let out a sigh of relief.
....The moment of relief gave way to anguish as I assesed the "damage" to myself. What a curious sight it must have been to passersby to see a man in a three-piece suit traipsing through a marsh with a glass globe! The left shoe of a pair of brand new wing tips, as well as the foot in it were soaking wet with with salt water and covered in slimy mud. The left pant leg had suffered the same fate to just below the knee.
....At least for part of my ordeal, the Gods had found favor in me. When I entered the house my wife was in the bathroom giving Gretchen a bath. This afforded me the oppurtunity to grab an icepick from a kitchen drawer and to slip into her bedroom unwatched. I emptied the jar on her dresser into the store bag containing the empty snow globe box. After using the ice pick to punch some holes in the jar lid, I transferred the lightning bugs from the globe to the jar. Drawing the shades and dousing the lights, I was rewarded with the spectacle of the fireflies reacting to the sudden darkness. There were about a dozen or so little beacons blinking on and off.
....By the time the girls had emerged from the bathroom, I had removed all evidence of the "battery installation." Gretchen came running to me for a hug to welcome me home. As I was knelt down hugging her she whispered, "Daddy, did you bring me a present?"
....After a brief pregnant pause, I carried her to to her bedroom and said, "Yes. I brought you the new batteries for your lightning bugs!" She giggled and shreaked a yelp of delight as she picked up the jar and admired her revitalized "night light." She turned to me and said, "Thank you, Daddy." I said, "You're welcome. Anything for my little angel." I was turning to go to our bedroom to get out of those wet shoes, socks and pants when she called out, "Didn't you get me anything else, Daddy?"
....It resulted in me having to use one of those little white fibs. In a sense it was actually a half truth. "Yes, I did get you something else. I have to put it together for you. I'll put it together tomorrow. Okay, honey?" It was with reluctance, but she answered, "Okay." Over supper I pondered about the snow globe. Across the table from me was my daughter beaming at her jar of lightning bugs that she just had to bring to the table with her.
....Later that night, after she'd fallen asleep, I sat at the table with the two pieces of the snow globe. I knew that ordinary water was not the liquid used in those things. After a little experimenting and a lot of frustration, I had the epiphany that was so desperately needed. First, I filled the globe with some distilled water, sprinkled in some glitter and added just a dash of glycerin. I applied some epoxy to the threads of the globe to insure it would be sealed properly and screwed the base onto the globe. I left it sitting upside down while resting atop a large mug to allow the epoxy to dry and set overnight.
....The next morning, I turned it right side up and watched with both glee and satisfaction as the the silver "snowflakes" began falling gently upon Lady Liberty. She had helped me, and I was happy that I could return the favor. I put the globe into its box and left it sitting at my daughter's place at the kitchen table. (To this day, my daughter still has it and it's still in its original box. As far as she knows, that morning when she opened it, was the one and only time it was ever out of the box.)
....You reader and I are the only ones to know otherwise. It's our secret.
If you would like to make your own snow globe from ordinary jars, check out the following link:
Who knows, maybe you too can find lightning in a bottle.
Curmudgeon responsible for this post: Hale McKay at 1:23 AM