Frogs

6 Aug

 

frog

 

Driving down the freeway with my wife Sophy, she began telling me about her fear of frogs, and her guilt feelings – positive that her fear had caused a family tragedy.

When Sophy was a small child, her father and mother were so broke that they sent her to live with an aunt. It was bad enough that while the aunt’s children feasted on mangoes and oranges, Sophy was only given one egg and one tortilla a day; Sophy was also forced to sleep on a cement floor that was open to the backyard. During the night, scores of frogs would hop across the yard, drawn towards the damp cement floor. Sophy would scream and scream, terrified of the frogs hopping on her body.

Things weren’t much better when Sophy was reunited with her sisters and mother. Sophy’s sisters learned about her fear. They cornered her in the backyard and thrust a frog into her face. Sophy ran in a panic and took refuge in her mother’s bed, burrowing under the covers, holding onto her mother – who was pregnant – kicking and screaming for her mother to save her from the frog. Sophy was so out of control she repeatedly kicked her mother in the belly. Whether or not it was true, when her mother miscarried a week later, it was Sophy who was blamed.

As a kid, I had my own frogs to deal with. I grew up in the suburban woods of Virginia. One of my earliest memories is seeing a frog feebly swimming in a stream, its legs in bloody shreds from a predator’s attack. I also remember catching a bucket of frogs and bringing them back to our house. I set the bucket in the shade of the house and went in to have lunch. Hours later, when I came back to my frogs, they were floating dead in the bucket. I dipped a finger in the water – it was hot. During lunch the sun had passed over the house and boiled the frogs to death. I don’t remember what I did next. Did I dump them in the grass? Put them in a garbage can?

A later event when I was six years old was more mystical and strange. It was early evening and I was at a neighbor’s house, lying on my back in the grass, looking up at the sky. I saw a vision of ballerinas dancing in the sky. Then, from behind a cloud, came a frog dressed in a harness, like something a gladiator would wear. The frog flicked out its tongue and swallowed the ballerinas. The vision was so strong, that the next day, when I saw a huge overturned tree on a sandbar in a creek, I was convinced that the frog lived in the dark space created by the tree’s tangled roots. I found a pointed stick and crept towards the tree, getting down on my knees, and crawled into the shadows, attacking and stabbing the earth clinging to the roots. It was a weird thing to do – I was alone at the creek – there was no false bravado or conscious fantasy.

Years later, when I was a teenager at the edge of a lake, I remember the repellent feeling of trying to lift a huge bullfrog in my hands. The smooth weight, the squirming – I could only hold it for a second.

When Sophy and I met, when I was 57 and she was 48, we were in Maui. We’d only been together a couple of months. I was writing an article for a luxury magazine and they were pulling out all the stops to impress us. They set up a private dinner on the lawn, under palm trees, with a view of the ocean. We had our own sommelier. The chef was sending over special dishes. It was very romantic and as the sun went down we were both aware of how lucky we were to have found each other. It’s easy to picture: palm trees in silhouette, the sound of surf, candles lighting up the floral bouquet on the table. Then we both began to notice shapes in the darkness, moving on the grass. They were roughly the size of a loaf of bread. More and more appeared, until they surrounded our table – huge frogs. Sophy managed not to scream, but I had to cover her eyes and walk her away, until we got we got enough distance between us and the frogs for Sophy to begin laughing.

With frog trauma such as this, it’s hard to explain the Saturday afternoon when Sophy received a package of food from Sonora.

I was on the phone with my father.

Sophy came up to the phone with a fork in her hand saying, “Try it. It’s good. Frog legs.”

I said to my dad, “Sophy’s trying to feed me frog legs.”

“Better you than me,” he said.

When you love somebody, you have to go for it, and I did. Not bad. Tasted just like…

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One Response to “Frogs”

  1. Dani August 8, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Loved this, Mark.

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