Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Christmas Frog

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Christmas Frog

Article excerpt

I won't forget how he liked to splash around in his dish. And how when he sang, he sounded like a small dog barking.

Last winter, on Christmas Eve, I found a frog in my lettuce. The lettuce was not even organic, and I was sure it came from Mexico. I had purchased it at the Pathmark grocery store under the Manhattan Bridge, and it had been in the fridge for days. The frog hopped out of the bag and perched on a plate, looking uncannily like a food- related item.

I wasn't prepared to discover wildlife in my kitchen. Luckily, I have a husband, who caught the frog with a piece of cheesecloth. We punched holes through the top of a plastic Tupperware container and put him inside with some water and a piece of the lettuce he rode in on. Don't you think he's sick of that lettuce? we wondered. We took the lettuce out.

Upon inspection, the frog was no larger than a quarter -- a baby frog. Its skin was pale translucent green; its feet tipped with yellow. Googling led us to believe it was an American green tree frog, a species common in the South that had migrated as far north as New Jersey because of warming climates.

What were we supposed to do with it? It's not like you can just set a frog free outside in New York City in December.

If we take it to animal control they will feed it to a snake, my husband said.

They can't do that. This frog is from Mexico.

There's an animal hierarchy in those places. Dogs, cats, birds, then amphibians. That's how it works.

I went outside looking for a stick -- the closest thing we could get to a tree. Turns out, it's not easy to find a stick in Chinatown. Nature eluded or deceived us. Was that a stick or a dirty shoelace? A nest of brown leaves clotted in a storm drain resembled nature; I added this to the Tupperware, for ambiance.

Because it was Christmas Eve, we soon realized that we would have to take the frog with us to Boston, to visit our family. We put the frog in a backpack and walked to the Fung Wah bus's pickup spot at the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge. A bus employee, deftly wielding several walkie-talkies, herded us into an anaconda of a line. "Quickly!" he shouted. The bus was already roaring down Bowery. Run! Go!

Laden with luggage, we ran, knocking into vegetable delivery men and waylaid shoppers. I imagined our frog getting tossed around in the backpack, tumbling like pants in a washing machine.

Every now and then along the ride, we would unzip the backpack and look inside. Hello? How are you doing in there? The frog clung to the side of the container, looking tiny and unhappy. Don't worry, we said. We will find food.

The last time I had a pet, I was a kid, and my pet was a goldfish. This goldfish came from the carnival. Even then I understood -- to give a kid a goldfish is to say: "You can be entrusted with this life, because its loss will mean very little. …

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