And here’s why.
As my biochemistry professor was giving a class about proteins to around 50 students, he came upon the example of the firefly.
“Do you know how fireflies light up?” He asked.
The class looked at him with indifference. It was a morning class. We don’t care, everyone was probably thinking. He carried on.
“Fireflies have a protein called luciferin along with ATP, and with the help of the enzyme luciferase, they light up.”
I was probably the only one in that classroom that grinned at this piece of information.
“Do you know what Lucifer means?” He asked. “It means devil, shaytan,” he translated in Arabic, and at that, the whole class laughed.
His mention of the firefly triggered a memory, and it seemed as if the scene in which that memory took place flashed in front of me for a second and went away, leaving me with a grin on my face and a twisted feeling in my stomach that you could describe as nostalgia.
Growing up in the States, on some Sunday afternoons when my family wasn’t going downtown to visit my grandfather, my father would take us to a park that was close to the area where my elementary school was. It was a huge baseball field on one side and swings and slides and all that on the other side.
On that particular day, I could feel the humidity of the day being taken away by the calm air. As the sun was going down giving the sky a dark pastel blue, tiny lights began twinkling a few feet off the ground. When the sun was gone giving a clear, dark sky, the tiny twinkling lights were brighter. I was amazed at that time, and still, here I am sharing this with you with the same awe I had those years ago.
The only difference is that at that time, I didn’t know how those tiny bugs lit up. I don’t recall asking, but I can imagine my father’s answer if he didn’t know the mechanism of how they worked. “God made them that way,” and that was all I needed to know to sleep through the night.
Now, I know the mechanism of how they light up, and to me, they are no longer tiny creatures that were always around only lighting up at night. To me, they are another awe-striking aspect of sciene.
And that is why I miss seeing fireflies as a child. I miss seeing fireflies because of the memories made observing them and the innocence of not knowing how they worked. They just lit up when the sun went down, and it never got any more complicated than that.