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Lightning bugs in a jar

By Jan Penton

Guest Columnist

The colorful lights of fireflies winked and blinked as afternoon shadows gave way to dusk.  Mamaw and Papaw’s Neshoba County farmyard teemed with cousins creating their own brand of fun.  The warm, quiet afternoon transformed into a wonderland of adventure as children’s lighthearted laughter filled the sultry summer air.

“I got another one; that makes five for me!” yelled Rosie.

Carol’s voice rang with excitement, “I’m gonna catch up with you when I get this one.  Just wait and see!”

The older kids’ jars were filled with magical, colorful lights while the younger cousins’ bare feet padded across the yard in search of God’s magnificent treasures. I’m afraid my little brothers captured more sand burrs and leftovers from the chickens’ evening meal than lightning bugs, and my evening quota was disappointingly somewhere between the two.

Skinny legs darted quickly about trying to fill my jar before Mamaw called us in for supper.  My post as middle child was keenly felt at times like this.  The competitive nature I was born with fueled my desire to keep up with the older kids.

Unfortunately, having not quite mastered the art of unselfishness, I gave no thought of trying to help the younger ones with their almost empty jars.

Before my jar lit up sufficiently with color Mamaw’s singsong voice rang out, “Come in for supper!” With only a perfunctory grumble or two, we all skipped toward the house. Delightful smells of fried chicken and homemade biscuits had been temping our rumbling tummies for quite sometime.  Bare feet tracked sand and dirt into the old green farmhouse as we ran to wash up for supper.

The large table practically groaned with the weight of scrumptious food.  A big white clump of lard was used in making every batch of the flaky treats that we inhaled so quickly after grace.

We usually peeked out from tightly closed eyelids to see who might be also peeking around the room during grace.  All of us seemed totally unaware that our guilt was also obvious when we pointed out the failings of our peers.  When the lard buckets were emptied of their contents and had been carefully cleaned, they were saved for Mawaw’s brood of grandchildren to each have a special booster seat.

My grandmother never complained that I can recall.  She worked hard every day to keep three meals on the table for anyone who happened by.  If she tired of grandchildren messing up her house and adding so much work to her life she never let us know.

I wonder if she asked the Lord for strength to keep going when her steps slowed?  I wonder if she grew weary of making beds and washing clothes for so many little ones?

I’ll never know. But I do know that Mamaw, in her selflessness, quietly thought of the needs of others before her own.  As I look back on sweet days of yesteryear, I am strengthened in my own battle against selfishness by the wonderful example of my grandmother. Her love, just as the fireflies I so well remember, shone bright and strong.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may remember your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16 KJV)