When I was 9 years old, I went with my friend and her brothers to the pond down the street in pursuit of a frog.
Just to be clear, my affinity for amphibians has always been pretty much on par with anything in the arachnid or aviary family. So the fact that I was at all willing to entertain this should have given someone (anyone) pause as we ventured out with some nets and one of those little critter cages.
Anyway, I caught a big one. Or, rather, my friend’s brother caught it for me because I was scared shitless of poor Kermit and wasn’t touching this massive (like he ate another) bullfrog with a 10-foot pole.
So I guess I should explain that every Memorial Day, the town I grew up in would have this frog jumping contest, along with a cakewalk and a maypole and a cow chip raffle (please don’t make me explain this further) and yes, it still occurs. There isn’t much to do in a town with a population of 800 people and so one learns early to take comfort in the mundane and celebrate the idiotic.
Anyway, the big day came and Kermit was looking a little green around the gills, possibly from nerves or possibly from my mother’s driving but either way, he complied (what choice did he have, really) as we drove into the village for what was sure to be yet another small-town, memorable event.
My mother ran over this really big pothole and the top of the critter cage opened and Kermit … escaped isn’t the word really. He lunged, flailing like a fish out of water all over my parents’ tiny sedan, hurling himself against the window and croaking uncontrollably while I screamed like he was coming to kill me and my mother tried not to crash into the Happy Memorial Day banner, finally coming to a screeching halt just mere inches from the maypole.
I didn’t win anything… at least, I didn’t win anything other than a lifelong phobia of being in an enclosed space with a live pond creature.
Fast forward 32 years to the dead of winter and there are no frogs, no cows plopping or maypoles for anyone to crash into; only me standing in the driveway, looking at my wide-open car door.
I’m a repeat offender — it’s actually the third time in a week I forgot to close it and we should have left for school like, 10 minutes ago, because if this child gets one more tardy, someone’s seriously coming to arrest us.
I started the car, hoping I didn’t do a number on the battery, and then tossed some random items — a few sippy cups, a lonely shoe, two copies of The Maze Runner, a squeaky toy for a dog we don’t even own — into the backseat. A bouncy ball rolled out, down the driveway and into oncoming traffic. I chased after it in my pajamas, slipping for a brief moment on the ice before regaining my footing.
(Please, if you’re ever in need of a little light entertainment, drive by our house between the hours of … any time really, you won’t be disappointed. Admission: free.)
But there were no mice or squirrels or random possums taking up residence in Hotel Toyota Sienna that morning, so I was feeling like it was probably safe to go back inside and start fighting with my 11 year old who seems to think institutional learning is, in short, a terrific waste of time but TikTok isn’t and so yes, apparently, we’d be late again.
The ride to school played out as one might expect, with more resistance than my son getting his diaper changed. She took me through the five stages of grief and a few additional ones that definitely aren’t on the list. I tried to listen without commenting, blinking or making any sudden movements. She told me she had a stomach ache, a headache, bubonic plague, and while I feel sorry for any kid who hates school that much, there’s definitely a Ferris Bueller-esque quality she’s got going on.
After bidding her a good day at school, I left the parking lot, making a mental note to drink heavily later — and that’s when I heard it. The croaking sound.
I shook my head, waiting for the light to turn green. It’s not a frog, I told myself. You’re just imagining things.
But then I heard it again, this time louder, as if it, whatever it is, was creeping closer.
I gripped the steering wheel. There’s no frog in the car, I said, loudly this time as if this bold declaration would surely vanquish any errant amphibians lurking under my seat. Oh, God. What if it’s under my seat?
I steadied my hands, white-knuckling the wheel. Stop acting like a child! But now I was sure, there was a frog in the car (in the middle of February) and not just any frog but Kermit, the killer bullfrog, the very one who ate all the other frogs in the pond, the one who would surely eat me, or at least hop onto my lap or worse, my head, while I was driving but there was nowhere to stop, no place to pull over and then everyone was merging into the left lane because, apparently, speeding tickets were on the Wilton Police Department‘s agenda that morning and the entire right lane was blocked.
I started itching, sweating, hyperventilating at the thought of it even though it was totally irrational, even though I knew Kermit was as long gone as that Happy Memorial Day banner.
Finally, I turned onto Cannon Rd. and pulled into the Wilton Grange. Almost forgetting to put the car into park, I stumbled out of the driver’s seat, looking around for a stick or something, anything to kill Kermit with. Finally, I grabbed the ice scraper from my front seat and opened the back door, slowly first, and then with a terrific tug, I pulled, the scraper poised and ready to pummel the poor creature to death. Gotcha!
Breathless, I looked down at the squeaky toy, watching as it re-inflated and then looked up at me with big bulging eyes, so sad, so… undeserving.
I got back in my car, convinced I was still just a 9-year-old girl trapped in a middle-aged woman’s body. You know, it’s no swim in the pond, this whole adulting thing, like getting an amphibian to perform acrobatics. Seriously, sometimes I feel so ill-prepared over here, so lacking in the life skills department, so very much without a net. And when squeaky toys are involved? ‘Frog’et about it. I think Kermit would agree, (the Muppet version, not the bullfrog), it’s not easy being green.