I watch Blondie chase fireflies. Her first time up late and outside, she runs and giggles and squeals, “Hello there, little lightning bug! Hey, wait for me!” Few stars care to share themselves before the sun disappears, but Bo comes across Venus and Jupiter together. “The second star to the right!” Blondie tugs my hand and points beyond our world. “That’s where Tinkerbell and the fairies live. Can we go there?”
“In your dreams, Blondie, sure you can.”
“But I want to go for real.”
“I know, kiddo.” Magic’s for dreams and stories, I want to say, not real life. But she’s five. What does she know?
I am returning from the library in the next town. Biff and Bash have been living up to their names moreso than usual, so when Bo offers to handle bedtime solo, I flee.
The sun’s brilliance wanes. A thin haze rests upon the treetops. It is the first cloudless sky in days, and I wonder if I shall see some constellations before I reach home.
The stars do not bother. Too much competition.
Never have I seen so many fireflies at once. On either side of the road, from curbside to distant tree lines, slowly circling every corn stalk. Blondie would have called them dancing fairies. I would have agreed.
I find myself jealous of Creation.
Had I built this moment myself, in my head, I could stay in it as long as I choose. I could add more colors to the fireflies and the sunset. I could add a chill in the air to make it more comfortable. I, I, I. I wanted to be in control.
Stories allow that. I can revisit a scene from years ago and rewrite characters’ choices. Natures. Trim every unpleasantness away.
But where is the life in such manipulation?
At some point, I have to stop the fixes and simply let the characters go the ways they wish. I am tempted often to analyze what I’ve done: if I give it just one more go, I can get it right.
But will it really be “just one more go”?
We cannot see the ripples of consequence until after the stone is thrown. Some of us don’t have hope great enough to fill the palm of one hand; instead, we carry a pebble, a little nothing that could never touch another. Or, like me, some lumber about with a boulder that defines everything, everything we perceive ourselves to be. I aimed my boulder as best I could for graduate school, certain it would teach me the beautiful secrets of writing. Instead, I learned to hate it. It took years of postpartum depression for me to try writing again, and discover its power to heal. I can’t delete the dark thoughts I battled to reach this point. I don’t want to. Because I wouldn’t know, really know, who I am if not for those internal scars.
I still stare into that water sometimes, though, and wonder how much longer I should have held on to that damn boulder. What friendships I should have saved and not abandoned. Which hearts I should have sought and not ignored. I can stare, and stare…and miss the beauty of a hundred fireflies dance around my daughter.
So I do my damndest not to stare. Creators who watch nothing lose control of their worlds, and characters who immerse themselves in nothing can only drown. I am a mother of children who see me as the foundation of their world. I am a wife to a man who dared throw his pebble into the water at, of all things, the sight of me. I am a woman who wants to share her imagination with those who walk away from the water and enter the fireflies. Perhaps we will see each other amidst all the little glows, perhaps not. To miss the dance this year is not the end—one of the best miracles about fireflies is that they come back. Until then, we can look for stones to skip, and, when we’re ready, launch them across the water and make it beautiful. That, to me, is magic.