July 4, 2010
Do you remember the magic of fireflies when you were young? The wonder of a little bug that comes out at night and lights up the darkening sky? Tanner and Jake almost never get to see them. We put them to bed so early, it’s still light out.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought some bug catchers and some butterfly nets so we could catch fireflies. I bought six of them so that when we had Lily and Madelyn’s families over for a cookout, we could stay up late and they could all catch some. That would have been last weekend, and the kids were really excited about it. Ironically, as would happen only when you try to get three kids with leukemia together, one of them ended up in the hospital. Little four-year-old Madelynn had a fever and low counts and we ended up canceling until everyone could come. Tanner was extremely disappointed.
Tonight, after having a great time decorating our bikes and riding in the Fourth of July bike parade in downtown Franklin, we planned to go to Corinne’s house to catch fireflies and, hopefully, see a few fireworks in the backyard. We set out with glow necklaces, silly string, bug catchers and butterfly nets in tow. The kids waited and waited for the fireflies to show up, and finally, they did.
They all ran around catching them in their nets and putting them in their bugcatchers. Tanner ran to me, elated that she had caught five fireflies. Then, she tripped over a jump rope and fell face first on top of her bug catcher. The bug catcher broke apart and fireflies streamed out into the sky. Tanner screamed; we thought at first she had hit her port and hurt herself, but she was hurt in a different way. Her little heart had endured as much disappointment as she could take. She grasped at the fireflies and sobbed as she watched them get away. There was no consoling her. I picked her up and hugged her to me and took her inside for a moment to try to calm her down, to tell her that there were lots more chances to catch fireflies this summer, that we could put hers in Jake’s bug catcher and take them all home with us. Nothing worked. She wasn’t crying about one disappointment; it was ten, maybe twenty, disappointments wrenching from her body in loud high pitched sobs.
She was mourning all the lost opportunities, all the times she has been told to be brave, that we’ll get to do it another time, that we can redo theatre camp, that she’ll get to go back to school eventually, that there will be another birthday party, another class trip, another chance to sing in the church choir, another dance lesson, another beach trip with my family.
Sometimes it is too much disappointment for an almost seven-year-old to handle. So many opportunities that disappear into the night like lost fireflies.
At home, we watched fireworks from the windows. She wanted to go outside and catch more fireflies, but she and Jake were exhausted and it was late. I promised her, once again, that there would be other opportunities. That we would invite friends over one night and catch fireflies in the yard. Just like I have promised her so many other things that will return to her once this disease has left our lives for good. Two-and-a-half years is an eternity to a child, especially one that lives on the edge of constant disappointment. It’s just too long.
Despite the meltdown, the night turned out okay. We returned home to find poor Domino in his crate barking furiously at the “intruders” that were making such loud booming noises. When we opened the crate door, he barreled out growling and barking, skidding around the corner to the front door, looking for the bad guy that might hurt his family. Love that dog. We took him down in the basement, where it wasn’t as noisy, and everyone played for a few minutes. Then, we watched some fireworks out the windows and went to bed. Turns out Jake and Domino feel similarly about fireworks. Both of them only like to watch them from inside; outside they are just “too woud.”
Luckily, I can recreate firefly catching any night of the summer. And, just like she always does, she’ll get over it. I just wish she didn’t have to.