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June 28, 2012
The Secret Life of Molly
A Veritable Plague of Woodland Creatures
by Hannah Bird

Because I have a long history of making poorly conceived decisions, we have a farm. It isn't the postcard kind of farm where cows graze next to red barns in lush green fields. It is a real farm where fences fall down and everything is the color of cow manure because it is covered with cow manure.

One day when my oldest son was about 9, he went out to irrigate with his dad. Sam returned from his labors with a face shining with love and joy. And a bucket. Nothing strikes fear in the thinking mother's heart like a joyful 9-year-old and a bucket brought in from the fields.

"Mom!" he said, "come see what I've got." I cautiously peeked over the side of the bucket. The bottom was covered with fat green frogs.

Now I know that in the same postcard world where cows graze next to a manureless barn, farm boys carry a frog in their pocket. But this was not one frog. It was really quite a lot of frogs. Our best guess was 13 frogs. But when you are trying to do a frog head count in a bucket, the frogs in question are shockingly unaccommodating.

I tried to be adequately impressed with the frogs. This was back in the dark days of parenting when we believed that if we did not sufficiently praise children on their acumen as frognappers, they would start shooting up heroin that very day. So I really did try to point out the high quality of the frogs. I commented on the quantity of frogs and the hoppiness thereof. It was less than even half-hearted. At the core of me I like neither slimy nor hoppy things. But I did my best not to squelch the joy shining in my radiant young frog hunter's face.

Now, many young parents will not believe me here, but a thorough study of history will bear this out. There once was a time when people could afford to drive for fun. Relaxing family drives were a real thing. So we left the bucket of frogs carefully secured with what I was assured was a foolproof lid. We loaded up the Suburban and set out to enjoy the spring lush.

Many hours later we returned, hungry and tired (but still able to afford living indoors despite the drive because that used to be an achievable dream). We stumbled in the door and I immediately saw it. Frogaggedon. The bucket was tipped over. The foolproof lid had been made a fool of. There was not a frog in sight.

My son looked at me with nervous eyes. He dropped to his knees and started looking everywhere for the frogs. Everyone joined into the search. At first our efforts were not successful. Then I noticed the curtains were moving. We quickly picked up four froggy fugitives and dumped them into the bucket. We found one frog in the kitchen. We found two in the bathroom.

I came to understand why frogs were used as a plague against the stubborn Pharaoh. What started out as (possibly) 13 frogs seemed to become thousands. There were frogs everywhere.

I made a hasty retreat to the living room, only to find myself knocked to the floor by a particularly aggressive amphibian. The children claim that I freaked out and tripped. I say that is just what the frog wanted them to think.

And then our madcap adventure took a turn for the worse. I really was very tired. There were frogs everywhere. I already mentioned that I do not like hoppy or slimy things. I like them less when I am not sure they are not hiding in my two good towels. I yelled. I don't mean a little bit of lightweight crossness. I mean the kind of yelling that makes eyes well up and lips stick out. It was exactly the kind of self-esteem-killing yell that would make small children take up drink and fast living.

And in so doing. I ruined a perfectly good story. My children still talk about the plague of frogs. The story is funny for a minute. But they always trail off at the end. Then we stand and look at each other awkwardly. And all that uncomfortable silence means, "And then Mom yelled like a crazy person and sucked every second of joy out of it."

It was a great learning experience for me. I can learn from my mistakes.

We still farm (I said I can learn from my mistakes, not that I always do). This spring, an industrious little bird build the Taj Mahal of all bird nests in the engine of our Suburban. My husband and the same son took the Suburban to town on my birthday to run errands (and only errands plotted out with military precision for fuel efficiency.)

Shortly after they left I got a call from my husband reporting that the suburban was on fire. At first my heart sank. Money is tight. The Suburban is critical to our farming. It was my birthday. I felt just the tiniest bit sorry for myself. Until I remembered the lesson of the frogs. And then I laughed. And laughed.

My husband had pulled into the office parking lot with flames shooting out of the hood. Luckily his errand was with the Forest Service. After years of careful training about fire safety, our local Forest Rangers finally had their moment. They ran out armed with fire extinguishers and put out the fire. The whole event transpired in front of a sign that read "Fire Danger- Low." That's going to be the funniest story in our repertoire in five years.

I will laugh now. I will giggle with my children. I have learned my lesson. I will smile and watch. A sense of perspective and humor is important. But it is not nearly as important as silent vigilance. I will wait. I will watch.

Some people think that laughter is the best medicine. But I disagree. I think laughter is the best way to conceal my vengeful vigilance as I wait, ever ready, for the next woodland creature that tries to kill us.

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