Tonight I almost tripped over a firefly.
Well, not exactly. I was out for a run and it was around 9 at night. By that time, nearly the only light in my suburban neighborhood comes from scattered lampposts and the flickering of televisions in living room windows. Which means it’s hard to see uneven sidewalks elevated by tree roots, especially if you’re distracted by the first firefly of the season.
Every year I look forward to that first firefly – it’s as if the illuminated case holds within it all the wonders of childhood summer: dripping popsicles and ice cream cones, late night sprinklers, playing out in the streets and watching thunderstorms from my bedroom window. My birthday.
But now it’s a different kind of summer, because for first time in years I’m totally and completely free. And of course, this may be my last summer in that sense.
Having just graduated from college, I’ve been struggling to accept that sense of freedom, since my previous life was defined by never being free. I can’t accept summer for what it is, an open in-between period when it’s acceptable to spend hours shopping or tanning at the pool. I can’t accept that I should relax. (But should I?)
Apparently, there’s no need to power walk to the pantry just to get a handful of crackers and get back to work. I can sleep in if I want to, and accompanying my mother on a long trip to the grocery store will make no difference in my plans for the day, and will certainly not set me back from the nonexistent pile of work I still need to get done.
As I continued my run tonight, which itself had been an escape from my too-relaxing book and movie, I realized this summer is so unlike “real life” that it’s hard to define what my ideal summer would even be. By the time I made my way back up the road, careful to watch for tree roots, the fireflies had retreated to wherever they go between dusk and dawn.
I opened the door to my house, greeted by central air and the possibility of spending the rest of my night doing whatever I feel like.
It’s summer and I’m not sure what that will mean.