Wednesday, January 11, 2006

firefly summer

Perhaps because I am trying not to be overwhelmed by current grief, I have found my mind drifting to long ago. The image that came up was of a jar of fireflies, glowing green. So many years ago.

My friend's name was David. He had freckles, green eyes, black hair that refused to stay put. He walked very quickly, despite the crutches and the heavy braces on his leg. We'd walk to school together, over the rutted roads, under the pine trees. In those days little girls wore dresses with sashes that tied at the waist, in the back. Even then I was fairly fashion challenged, and my sashes always came undone, my braids unbraided. I'd take my shoes off to walk in puddles. David was very good at tying the sashes, so that at least my dress was proper as we reached the school.

We were--oh, perhaps all of six years old. Maybe seven.

And the fireflies? On long summer evenings we'd catch them together, there in the woods, and put them in jars to serve as temporary lanterns. The jar of fireflies for a long time was the image of those days to me--and just about the only image I held. Memories are funny thing--why do you recall one thing, and forget another?

David and I swore we would marry one another when we were old enough. He knew a lot of funny riddles and jokes; at seven that seemed a good thing in a future husband. That, and his skill in tying those sashes on my pink or blue or pastel green dresses.

But we were military children, and military children get uprooted a lot, year after year. There are new schools and new landscapes, and new friends. Departure is the normal state of life.
I didn't think of this early love for years and years, until one summer when I was very sick with a high fever, and suddenly the face of that little boy came into my mind. With it came a rush of other memories--not just the jar of fireflies, which I had certainly remembered for years--but of the winter after the firefly summer. The mysterious silence of adults. The absence of my friend.

It was death, not departure. And I remember crying all through the night, night after night, nights in which it was the young maid, who barely spoke English, who wiped my tears.
I was grateful for the summer fever that brought back those memories, which I have not lost again. And when my mother died I found an old school photo. I am skinny, grinning impishly, staring at the camera. Beside me, looking at me with a half smile, is that freckled, darkhaired boy, leaning on a crutch, just about to tell me a riddle.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

just to say i'm thinking of u..

3:53 AM, January 12, 2006  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

it is nice taht we humen have got this memory thing where we remember all these fine moments of joy. & yet sad how we notice the people we have come to lose in our short life & there are more to come...

another master piece by the fantastic Jarvenpa.

6:55 AM, January 12, 2006  
Blogger Nyx said...

beautiful post dear, you are such a good writer.

10:21 AM, January 12, 2006  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Are you sure this isn't a short story waiting to happen? I'm cautious about posting things I might use...

And I just wonder. You don't want to be "done" with them before they're fully born.

Just a thought!

12:17 PM, January 12, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

thank you all for your thoughts and comments.
marlyat2-you have a point, but actually my blog serves me as sort of a pre-quilt scrap bag. I am primarily a poet (though journalism, editing, and the writing of various odd essays and columns have at crucial moments put food on the table). Perhaps because poetry is my first love and what I take most seriously in writing, I have treated most of my other writings--including this new experiment in blogging--as in a sense ephemeral.
This--this blogging, this contact across countries and cultures--is a new thing for me, and, I must say, a very sweet thing.
I'm not worrying about what it may or may not do to the rest of my work...

11:23 PM, January 12, 2006  
Blogger ardvisura said...

This post is so beautiful.
it makes me think of Barbara Kingsolver's books that I love so much.

7:24 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger Frank said...

I do feel the nostalgic feeling you have toward your childhood friend.I sometimes have the same feeling toward my childhood too.

11:19 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Oh, that's all right, then, if you're not turning them (or most of them) into stories. And poetry is the higher art, after all.

And yes, you have an interesting and loyal "circle" of readers...

8:53 PM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger David said...

I used to catch fireflies as a child in Alabama. I too put them in a jar sometimes. It seemed there was something magical about their bright yellow orange signals, and I would stare at them, as they winked on and off, for long minutes at a time trying to fathom the source of such a wonder.

Your story of David has touched me and aroused my curiosity. Why did he wear braces on his leg, and if you don't mind my asking, how did he pass?

8:18 PM, January 15, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

David, it is interesting that you remember the glow as orange; in Japan, where I was, it was definitely a sort of greeny-yellow (or at least I remember it that way). My little friend had had polio, which was why he had to have braces and crutches. As to how he died, I never really found out (by the time I recalled all this my parents had died--my mother would have been able to tell me, I think). I never thought of him as delicate or sick, despite those crutches. Because of the time he'd spent in hospitals he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up.
I often think of people who have touched my life deeply, even when they passed through it too quickly.

8:47 PM, January 15, 2006  
Blogger Spyder said...

Memories, they are a wonderful thing.
I can not find the words to express my feelings about this post. safe to say though, I admire your work.

12:52 AM, January 16, 2006  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

Those are the things the sweetest memories are made of. They stay in your heart. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss.

10:52 PM, January 16, 2006  

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