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firefly illustration


My daughter was a stay-awake baby. Sometimes, to shorten the process, we would load her in the car and drive out into the lyrical Pennsylvania countryside, watching the colors of night gather in the sky, the green trees enrich their hues as night fell.

My stepdaughter  was a sarcastic, defensive, dreadlocked artist- and she was pregnant, at the time, by a man who wasn’t holding up his share of the burden in any way, something she was just coming to understand.  It could be difficult to talk to her, or with her, and a lot of our time together was spent in silence. Which was, really, all right. She was painting, she was productive. But she was so buttoned down, holing herself in, unwilling to express any simple emotions. And I wasn’t really capable of the empathy that would have drawn her out, to be truthful.

This particular evening, though, we went deep into the country, a direction we hadn’t gone before. As the dusk turned into blackest night, we noticed the unusual numbers of fireflies, and as we turned a corner, we had to pull the car over and step out.

The little valley that we had driven into was inundated, flooded, overwhelmed by fireflies. It looked- silly.  Like Disney gone bad, like no one would have the bad taste to animate that many twinkling lights in one spot. Every tree, every grass stalk, the little farm house, the hills around us- sheeted, limned, defined by the magical glimmer. There were no stars in the sky- we were blinded by earthly fireflies.

The sight became blurred by the tears in my eyes, and it was hard to swallow. My husband, too, was blinking. The baby was peacefully asleep in her carrier.

My stepdaughter sat on the hood of the car. Tears were pouring over her face.