Gravel crunching underneath, we drove up the long driveway that led to my parent's house. We were about a half an hour late, which for me, in the long run, is about par for course for family visits. In the short run, though, I have really been trying to be better about being more punctual, so I was a bit grumpy on the way there, crunching my fists up against the steering wheel and making faces. Corb tried to raise my spirits by playing on his iPhone old clips of Toontses, the cat who thought he could drive a car.
As we made our way out the car and to the front door, I noticed an aquarium, resting by the lamp post in the front of the yard. I wondered what was up, but I didn't get to think about it much, because soon enough, there was my mother, greeting us at the door. We all gathered around her to shower her with kisses and greetings...hmmm, that sounds like something out of Little Women, for some reason. I guess I'm just a frustrated Jo, when you get right down to it.
"Oh, I have to show you something," Mom said, pointing to the aquarium in the grass. "I found the cutest little frog in the front lawn this morning, so I put it into an aquarium, to show to the kids."
We all moved back to the lamp post, to take a look.
Corb stared down into the tank, and wrinkled his nose at the small and shriveled animal that lay, lifeless, at the bottom. "I think you cooked froggy," he observed.
"I did not!" said my mother, shaking her head. "He was fine when we put him in there! He must just be sleeping."
Corb poked at the frog with his finger. It fell over, belly side up. "How many hours ago was that?" he asked.
"Well...a few hours ago..." she said.
"In the middle of the afternoon?" I asked.
"It was a shady spot!" she protested. "Go ahead, Corb, pick it up...you'll see. It'll spring back to life..."
Corb lifted up the group and tossed it gently to the ground. It fell like a brick, bouncing to the ground rudely and resting atop a pile of leaves. "Looks like you've got a crunchy critter there," said Corb.
"No! It just bounced, didn't you see it?" my mother insisted.
"That wasn't exactly a bounce," said Corb. "That was more like a thud."
For some reason, Corb and I found the dead frog endlessly amusing, particularly when we discovered about ten different kinds of frogs all around my parent's home. I discovered a side of my mother I never knew existed. She had froggy stuffed animals, frog figurines...even four frog statues, sitting on my parent's deck.
"And in the kitchen, my mom has a froggy that she made in ceramics!" I crowed. "She uses it to store her SOS pads in his mouth."
"Oh my God!" said Corb. "Your mom's the Crazy Frog Lady from Little Britain!"
"The frog lady?" asked me sister Kerrie.
I burst out laughing. "She's this character on this show. Has the world's largest frog collection in her house. Totally tacky! There are frogs everywhere you look--"
"Everywhere! Frog figurines, frog broaches," said Corb.
"She even wears froggy clothing!" I added.
"But deep down, she has a pathological hatred of real frogs," said Corb. "Whenever she sees one, she just goes berserk. Starts taking big rocks to crush them, squashes them with her shoes, that sort of thing."
"You know," said my father, "Now that you mention it, this wasn't the first frog death at this house. Just about a month ago, your mom caught a frog and placed it on a spot on the deck where it couldn't get out."
"Mom, have you no shame?" I asked.
"That wasn't my fault!" said my mother. "You had placed boxes around it, and it wasn't my fault that they were too high! I'm not a frog killer! I love frogs!"
But it was too late, by then. The damage had been done. The Evil Frog Lady label was stuck to her, as firmly as a tattoo on a bearded lady. It might even replace our favorite nickname for my mother, Betty Barnacle.
Other than that, it was a fairly uneventful day. Chinese food all around, a game of Scrabble. My dad looked like he was a shoo-in, but my sister Kerrie squeaked by at the last minute, with the word "Quiz," which brought her 60 points. Lots of laughter. I liked today, a great deal.
As we left, my mother glanced over at the lamp post. "Oh, look, froggy's gone!" she said. "He made it home after all."
We all laughed and said our goodbyes. But before Corb headed off, he tactfully covered up the shriveled carcass of the deceased froggy, which he had discovered, somewhat hidden by a branch. Better to let the Frog Lady win this battle. It was Mother's Day, after all.
What I'm Reading: The Sunday Philosophy Club, Alexander McCall Smith
What I'm Writing: Typing up Chapter 14 of Pictures of You