Fireflies and gazing balls

When Lisa and I were little, we spent so many weekends at Granny and Pop Pop’s house in Spotswood, NJ. Every weekend at Granny’s was the best weekend ever. They always picked up every awesome sugary cereal they could find for us, and they had a big enclosed back porch filled with toys to play with. This was really only used if it rained, because we loved to go outside to play so much. Pop Pop had a small shed on the side of the house where he kept wood blocks and random bits and pieces for us to make things with, and I loved putting together simple little boats with sails made from a big nail and pieces of fabric from granny’s old tablecloths. I’d float them in puddles or in the faded floral kiddie pool that Granny would fill with water from the hose.

All summer long, our weekends there were filled with days spent at her community pool, and our white metal pool passes always left permanent little rust spots on our bathing suits by the time September rolled around. When we weren’t swimming, we were riding our bikes through the long paths that wound around her community, stopping at various neighbors houses for ice pops or candy. At the back of her house were the woods, and if you rode the bike path far enough eventually you would come to a private little garden with a gazing ball and tons of perfectly manicured flowers. To this day I don’t know who this garden belonged to, but it was such a beautiful place.

I usually ended my long days of bike riding and gorging myself on sugar with a visit to this garden, which I saved for last because when the sun went down the fireflies would come out. Tiny dots of light hovered around me, as I looked into the smooth blue glass of that gazing ball. I thought they were fairies. I imagined that they lived in the trees around the garden, in tiny little carved-out homes in the tree bark with arched doorways that people couldn’t see. Granny loved telling us stories and legends, and told us to watch out for the will o’the wisps, tiny flickering lights that would appear and lead you away from the path. I was convinced I had seen them sometimes as I sat in this little peaceful night garden, and I’d tell Granny, who always listened intently, amused as I recounted my story of escaping the danger.

There’s no place like this anymore, and so much less magic in the world as I get older. I miss it. I miss being that kid who’s imagination was encouraged to wander, given the opportunity to be as creative as I wanted and who scared herself into riding her bike out of the darkening woods fast before the moon rose and the werewolves came out to chase me back to Granny’s.



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