I. Youth evades me like fireflies on this late summer night. I never could catch that flying light and hold it in my hand. Still, I tried. Now I watch my children chase the floating flashes, laughing and stumbling. What would they do if they caught one, I wonder, before they realized they had to let it go?
II. I recall an evening in late July:
I’m in my mid-twenties—all fresh flesh and inspiration—studying literature at The Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont. Romance is everywhere here, but mostly between people and words. I’m walking with a new friend down a wooded trail to a party at a house in the woods. A gathering takes place there every Thursday night: part poetry reading, part keg party. The path to the clearing lights up with fireflies. I turn around to find that there are just as many behind us as there are in front of us.
The trail ends at a clearing. There is nothing but a house and a group of graduate students drinking cheap beer around a campfire in the yard. The sparks from the fire float straight up and disappear. Laughter and a kind of love flush every face. A couple sneaks off alone. I stand with the remaining romantics around the burning logs, firelight illuminating our faces. Some take turns reciting poems from memory, mostly Robert Frost: “Fire and Ice,” “The Road Not Taken,” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” We’re in Frost territory. His insights are everywhere. And we’re the type of people who take notice. We know we don’t have long. He told us as much.
III. As I watch my children grasp at the blinking bugs, I revisit the walk home from that party. Fireflies light the way back to my temporary lodgings. Voices of just-met friends linger in my mind. Fire. Gold. Stay. Not Taken. Burning embers of that night flash through me like youth, which, I know now, doesn’t just end. It retreats into the crevices of memory. And blinks like a firefly in the dark.
Amber Christopher-Buscemi MA’01 is a part-time professor, part-time writer and full-time mother. She currently lives with her husband and two sons on Long Island.