Nice Father, Nice Fathers Day

Chip off the old block…

Celebrating my Dad this Fathers Day, seen here with his 1959 Mercury Montclair. On the photo is his first piece of jewelry, a childhood signet ring that fits my size 4 ring finger like a charm. There’s nothing like jewelry with a story and a sentimental history.

In honor of my own dear old Dad on  this hallowed and sentimental Father’s Day, I’ll indulge in a story from my Americana Childhood. I love to tell this story…

It was a summer night and I was a little kid. Mom, Dad, my little sister and I were sitting on the front porch steps at the old farm house. Cicadas were singing in rounds and there were more lightning bugs than I could count. The trees and yard were brimming with lights and the perfect rows of corn were illuminated as far as I could see.

Out of the blue Dad said, “Connie Jill… dj’you ever see a red lightning bug?”

I shook my head and confessed I’d never even heard of one.

He explained their rarity and how they’re extra hard to see because they don’t fly like a normal lightning bug; they zip across the sky just once, then they’re on their way and you won’t see them again. Maybe not for the whole summer and maybe never again in your life. He explained that most people go a lifetime without knowing about them much less seeing one, and I shouldn’t feel bad if I never did, either.

Dad has a way of talking slowwwllyy and deliberately. His stories are always punctuated with long pauses to sip his coffee or take a thoughtful drag from a Camel short. After an extra long drag he added, “But… If you’re really, really lucky, you might someday see a red lightning bug fly by.” … pause…. drag…. slow head shake… pause…

“I don’t know though, honey. You’d have to be a pretty special little kid. You’d need sharp eyes and to pay close attention. You’d have to want it pretty bad to even have half a chance.”

I thought about that, while carefully scanning the yard and fields. I’d found more four leaf clovers than anyone I knew. I could come home with more asparagus scouted out along the fencerow than both my sisters put together. I had a collection of tiny, perfect fossils of mollusks not much bigger than a BB. I wondered if I had it in me to someday spot a red lightning bug.  I knew I wanted it as bad as any kid could, but I didn’t know if I was lucky or special enough.

Just a few long minutes later I saw a bright red streak across the sky! It flew in a perfect arc into the darkness. I was of course beside myself. Dad shook his head slowly and said he never dreamed in a million years it would happen so soon. He carefully explained that it probably wouldn’t happen again. He said he never met a little kid quite as lucky as me, or anybody who wanted want they wanted as much as I did. He laughed and patted me on the head and I spent the rest of that night – and a good amount of time thereafter – thinking about that magical red lightning bug and what it all meant.

I’m not sure how long it took me to put two and two together that Dad had sent his lit Camel cigarette butt flying with a single, expert flick. But by the time I figured it out, the seed was already well planted. Thank you Dad, for changing the trajectory of my life with a single Camel cigarette and an inspiring, beautiful childhood. Now I need to sit down to carve and cast a Nice lightning bug for the Americana Childhood series. I may have to place a little camel on it.