Ah yes, I can hear it now, the fading sound of summer vacation—a few precious weeks left of those lovely times spent at the beach, at the playground, on bike rides through the neighborhood, or on creative rainy-day activities. And I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed all of these activities, because I truly have.
What I’m saying is, I need school to start, because I think I’m losing my mind.
It all started this morning. It was early, and I was drinking my coffee on my favorite chair with Decker at my feet. It was quiet and peaceful, which should have tipped me off that it would be an unusual day. And then we heard it.
“CHIRP.” Distinctive, loud, and in the house.
And it wasn’t even a cute little chirp like a robin’s; it was more of a screeching chirp like a huge parrot that just stubbed its toe. My startled dog jumped up and looked around for the unseen enemy. Finding none, he lay back down, apparently deciding the best defense was a good nap. Again, the shrill call.
It sounded like it was coming from a wall hanging, which made no sense at all since it wasn’t even a picture of a bird. Then I noticed a smoke detector on the ceiling nearby. When my husband came in, I made a joke of it and said, “Honey, either we have a really large bird stuck in our wall, or the smoke detector needs a new battery!”
He glanced up at the presumed offending item and said, “These don’t use batteries. They’re electric.” He then went back out, leaving me and the dog to our nightmarish imaginings as to what might actually be living in our picture. And by this point in the summer, we’re really not looking for more stress.
Later in the day my 4-year-old raced up from the playroom and laughingly announced, “Tom and Jerry are barking.” Tom and Jerry, of course, are frogs.
“Honey,” I replied patiently, “frogs don’t bark. The standard frog sound is a ‘ribbit.’”
Sophie gave me a look that will probably really irritate me in 10 more years and said, “I know that, Mom. That’s why it was funny.”
Let me just add here that the frogs were not my idea. My husband took the kids one day to ogle the fish in the pet store. That was all. That was the mission. Give Mommy some alone time—go look at fish. He apparently misunderstood the mission, however, because they came home with two frogs. Gee, maybe next time I’ll send him and the kids to ogle at a jewelry store! Ha ha ha. That was a joke, honey.
And while I prefer pets that can either catch a Frisbee or use the toilet, I nevertheless helped the kids to set up proper quarters down in the playroom for the little guys, dubbed Tom and Jerry by The Boy Who Claims He Does Not Watch Too Much Television. We filled their tank with the requisite dirt and sticks, and gave them a bowl of water.
“Oh, I forgot,” I said to my husband when we finished decorating. “What do they eat?”
Edging suspiciously toward the stairs, he quickly said, “Live crickets,” and sprinted up three at a time. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was fleeing, although I’m sure I don’t know why. Live crickets wouldn’t upset me. It’s not as though I would be the one buying them every week, right? Well? Am I right?
At any rate, I thought I should probably investigate the little auditory phenomenon in the playroom, where my 6-year-old was busy examining the tank. “I don’t see a dog in there,” he finally said. “And actually, I only see one frog; I think it’s Tom. Or Jerry. Whichever he is, the other one must still be hiding.”
I didn’t have the heart to remind him that one of the frogs has been “hiding” for several months. And after eyeing the paunch on the remaining Tom-or-Jerry, I made a mental note to research what frogs eat if, for instance, someone once forgot the crickets.
Suddenly I heard a distinctive bark. I quickly glanced at the dog, who looked up defiantly with his teeth clenched. “Okay, okay,” I said. “I was just checking. Jeesh.” I then looked around for an errant barking toy, which to my delight I found behind the tank. I also then noticed that the tank lid was slightly open, and it was all clear.
“Mysteries solved!” I cried triumphantly. “Someone must have bumped the tank so that it was pressing on this toy, making it bark. And the chirping upstairs must be a cricket that got out—he must have gotten behind that picture and can’t escape!” My children looked up at me with the awe and respect usually reserved for Power Rangers, and I was beaming with my accomplishment.
I proudly headed up the stairs with my trusty dog at my side and said, “I guess it’s not so bad after all, right, buddy? I mean, really—chirping pictures! Barking frogs! I thought I was really losing it there for a minute, but I’m okay! I can make it until school starts!” I patted him on the head and he looked up at me adoringly.
And said, “Ribbit!”
Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. She’s decided to frolic in the sun this summer, so this is a column reprinted from 2005. Reach Maggie at email@example.com and tell her you miss reading her new stuff.