There are some things that, no matter how old I get, make me feel like a kid again. Regardless of how much I might have whined a few months ago, the first snowfall of the season still conjures up memories of racing outside to catch flakes on my tongue and mom stirring cocoa on the stove. Watching the darling buds of May emerge continues to mesmerize, as I attempt to catch their steady progression into full flower with my trusty camera at the ready. When fall arrives, and the leaves transform from green to gold, I continue to marvel at Mother Nature’s ability to transfix and rejoice in the glorious bounty she provides for those of us fortunate enough to be living in the Upper Delaware River Valley.
And then there’s the good old summertime. When I was a youngster, the end of school could never come fast enough, since I went to sleep-away camp for six weeks every year, until I was old enough to be a counselor-in-training at the now-defunct YMCA Camp Arrowhead in Little Meadow, PA. Ahhh, Camp Arrowhead. Of course, at the time, I had no idea that my absence from home constituted a vacation for the folks. All I knew was that I was going to be hauling out the sleeping bag, (flannel-lined with cowboys and Indians) and that hiking, swimming and learning about how the Native American tribes lived, fished and honored their elders, (undoubtedly a bonus for my parents, who hoped that some of it would rub off before I returned).
We bunked in rustic cabins, made lanyards for Mom and ashtrays for Dad (it was the ‘60s) and learned how to etch cool designs in thin sheets of copper, all the while unaware that our leaders were instilling family values and preparing us for adulthood. I am still in touch with my best friend from those days, Steve Lubs, and we often reminisce about our days playing “kick the can” and how our years at camp shaped our young lives. The brief window between the end of school and the beginning of camp seemed interminable, and we marked the time by catching crawfish in the Susquehanna River, and watching our moms sew name labels in every article of clothing. These would be packed in a trunk with room left over for cookies and the requisite postcards that we would supposedly send weekly, regaling the folks with our adventures, which culminated with the end-of-season “color war” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_war), testing our newfound skills.
“How soon?” I’d ask, over and over, until mom started asking the same, wagging her finger at me and suggesting that patience was a virtue. “Once the fireflies arrive,” she’d say, “then you’ll know the time is near.” Fireflies. Depending on where you live, they are also called lightning bugs, but their universal appeal is undeniable. They flicker and weave through the tall grass, sometimes soaring into the trees, and still to this day, make me giddy with childlike wonder. Imagine my surprise then, to observe them appear last Friday night, a good four weeks earlier than anticipated. Just before leaving the house to see ‘struck’ at the NACL in Highland Lake (www.nacl.org ) I heard the Wonder Dog whining and crying at her lookout, which oversees a vast field behind the barn. Peering into the dusk, I saw them.
Amused that the dancing lights were alarming the dog, I raced out the door and reveled. Instantly, I was seven years old again and stood there, hugging myself, grinning, laughing and recalling the nights that Steve and I set off, canning jar in hand, hoping to capture a few before setting them free again, to enchant others down the block.
As for the show at NACL, it was a multimedia extravaganza and truth be told, slightly perplexing, but I left the theatre with my head filled with thought-provoking imagery that played across the stage, and there are moments that linger, much like the lightning bug.
The next day, I escorted the pup to her guest appearance at the Sullivan County Pet-A-Thon, hosted by Girl Scout Troop 705 at Morningside Park in Hurleyville, NY. The SPCA (sullivanspca.com) was present along with specialists in animal nutrition, first aid and veterinary care, while the girls held a ‘toy-making’ workshop to benefit the organization. As Dharma played with a puppy awaiting adoption, I shared a childhood memory with the troop. After collecting the lightning bugs, mom would let us bring them into my room and she’d open the windows an inch or two, turn off the lights and shut the door. Steve and I would open the jar and the fireflies would emerge, blinking on and off as we’d drift off to sleep, before they found their way out, gone by morning, free to mate in the open air. I think I might punch some holes in a lid tonight and do it again. Camp may be behind me, but you’re never too old to feel like a kid. IMHO.