Today, April 20, is about Easter. It is also about a boy.
The boy in this picture came into my life on April 20, 1975. He doesn’t look this way any more. He’s taller, his shoulders sometimes hunch when the world gets a little much for him, there are a few lines at the corners of his eyes when he smiles.
He’s probably wondering where all the time went. I can’t help him with that.
I can however, remind him of the day when he, just turned seven, brought his froggy friend home for supper. He wanted to create a habitat for him even though the obvious habitat was the creek bank just down the hill where they’d both been spending some quality time together all afternoon.
Arrangements were made. The boy took a bath (I insisted), and the tub was cleaned and prepared for the frog. We placed a rock inside the bath for that homey touch. The water was shallow and what my son determined was the right temperature. We closed the bathroom door.
Did I mention there was only one bathroom in the entire house?
Flash forward to the middle of the night. I have to pee. I forget about the visitor. The minute I open the door, and nearly lose it right then and there when something launches itself right at me. Frog is on the loose. He’s taking the steps three at a time, heading for the downstairs, the living room, the creek.
The boy sleeps like the dead or like seven-year-old boys who have spent the entire day outside. When I yell “The Frog Is Loose” into his ear, his eyes fly open and he’s off. For the next hour we pursue the amphibian through the house, under steam heaters, under couches, with paper bags, much frantic worry on my son’s part and some exasperation but mostly held-back giggles on mine.
The good news is that we saved Mr. Frog from himself. My son snared him in a paper bag. We marched out into the summer night in our pajamas. I started the car and the boy climbed in clutching the top of the bag. We drove to the bottom of the hill where the creek burbled.
I watched the boy get out, carefully lift the frog out of the bag and look him in the eye.
“Good bye,” said the boy. The rest of what he said was along the lines of “I’ll come back in the morning but I know you might not be here. I really wished I could have kept you but I know that wouldn’t have made you happy.” And then he let him go.
A moment of silence followed and then the boy climbed back into the car. A little while later, after a little talk and a glass of milk, he was once again asleep.
To the boy, on his birthday, I say “Happy Birthday. There were times when I wished I could keep you just like this, all muddy, smiles, and full of plans for a frog who had very different ideas.”
I have kept this picture though. I keep the memory of that night along with so many others. I persist in the idea that this boy still lives inside the man my son has become. There is some evidence for this. He still loves digging in the dirt. He still loves animals although the donkeys would not fit in the bathtub. He still has the most amazing smile.
Happy Birthday to the boy and the man. Happy Birthday to Stan, the most recent addition to the menagerie, who turns one year old today.
Happy Easter to those who celebrate it and may all find joy and renewal in this day.
oh, i love this story and the picture. and the donkey too. happy easter betsy )
This is a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it.
Lovely story. I can imagine myself someday telling stories like this and still seeing my daughter’s inner, highly precocious, 9 year old self.
Bless, so full of nostalgia.
I loved the way you wrote this
Thank you, Greg!
The memories of my boy, his frogs and snakes and doggie menagerie flooded back while reading this. How did those boys grow so tall so fast? How did they pack their bags and head to college?
I know! It’s so fast and yet the memories seem fresh as yesterday.
Betsy, Every time you write about this boy, I end up in tears. And this one is no exception. I think there’s an entire children’s book hidden in this lovely post. The love isn’t hidden at all, it shines through in every line.
That’s a great memory/story of your son.
I love this story. It reminds me of the time a hose clamp came loose on our son’s (1972) seawater aquarium and almost all the water pumped out on the floor, so we had to jump in the car at midnight, drive down to the seashore and bring back 400 liters of water.
That’s hysterical — I would LOVE to hear that story (or read it) and when you’re ready for another midnight-aquarium-fish disaster, let me know and I’ll tell you the story of Oscar, the Oscar fish “The Boy” saved up for because he wanted to see him eat goldfish. The story involves a misunderstanding about the proper temp for an aquarium, a frantic attempt to adjust and an unfortunate electrocution. The whole story played out in the dark while I was in bed listening to the flopping sounds of a fish who dived out of his tank when he realized he was being cooked, the thuds of my son’s feet as he ran back and forth to the bathroom to save him, and then his sigh as he sat on the end of my bed and informed me, “Oscar croaked.” The goldfish, however, survived. The things we do for love, right? And what memories. Thanks, Mike for visiting. Heading over to your blog right now.