Summertime Memories: Lightnin’ Bugs & Frog Houses

lightning bugs

One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting on a swing in my grandmother’s yard, or on her front porch, or maybe halfway up one of her pecan trees, along about sundown, and watching for the tiny flashes of yellow light appear just a few feet off the ground.  Lightnin’ bugs.  The real signal (along with the sweltering heat, ferocious and quick afternoon thunderstorms, and the thwap, thwap, thwap of a ceiling fan set on high) that the Alabama summer was in full swing.

A survivor of the Great Depression, Grandmother saved all sorts of stuff, among them glass jars. Only slightly curious to me as a kid was her vast store of glass baby food jars, the perfect container for keeping a lightnin’ bug in brief captivity, with some air holes punched in the lid.  These little bugs were so fascinating to me that I never could keep them, knowing even as a very young child that their magic couldn’t be contained for very long.

ktw sunflowerMy favorite storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham, also from Alabama, used to tell a story about making frog houses (another favorite summertime activity I remember doing).  To make a frog house, you pile wet sand over a bare foot, pack the sand tightly, and carefully remove your foot.  Left behind would be a small (depending on the size of your foot!) cave, a perfect residence for any enterprising frog looking for a home.

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s frog houses were extra special, though, because she *ahem* pinched off the “light” end of a lightnin’ bug to make her frog houses “electrified.”

*A* and I have all sorts of summertime memories and traditions we’ll be sharing here in the next few weeks.  I have to admit, though, maybe the tradition I look forward to most with our Littlest is sitting on a swing just after sunset some summer evening waiting for those little yellow flashes of light and racing to catch the little flash in a jar (even if only to release the hopefully not too traumatized bug if a few minutes later!).

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5 thoughts on “Summertime Memories: Lightnin’ Bugs & Frog Houses

  1. I too remember those days ….chasing lightning bugs and catching them on your hand and letting them crawl around as you turned your hand around. I was reminded of that this evening as I walked.down the road and saw them lighting up here and there. As it happened, I walked quite close to one and reached out and it landed on my arm. I watched it crawl around and then stop to lift its wings to fly away. What a great reminder of childhood memories…

  2. I got to see lightning bugs for the first time only a few years ago on a trip to WV. They are so cool! Wish we had them here in SoCal.

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