There’s a toad living in a pair of sneakers I keep on the back patio. He switches from one shoe to the other, but he’s always in one of them during the day; at night, he emerges and hops around the yard. I guess he’s looking for bugs.
Every day I peek to make sure he’s there. Do toads sleep? They must. Whenever I look, though, he’s just sitting there quietly, tucked into the dark cave of my shoe, his black peppercorn eyes staring straight ahead. I worry I might scare him when I do that, but I’m obsessed with making sure he’s there. I think a raccoon or maybe a palm rat has been visiting the porch at night – I find weird poop on the paver stones – and a fat toad might make a nice snack. I know, circle of life and all. But I love him. Also, I know a palm rat is just a rat, but somehow calling it a palm rat makes the concept a little more palatable.
I first noticed my toad a couple of months ago. When I let the dogs out at night, he’d be hopping around, and they followed, sniffing him curiously, until I shoed them away. Now everybody seems content to share the space.
The other day, I noticed the husband had moved my shoes to a tabletop. “Honey,” I said, “my shoes can’t be up so high. The toad, remember?” The husband is a compulsive thrower-outer of unused things. What if he put my shoes in the trash? The thought upsets me. There must be a hundred toads living around our little wooded lot, but I love this one because he’s there, in my shoe, letting me pretend to be his person.
This week, as (most of) the nation celebrated the USA’s birthday, we ignited 45 seconds worth of fireworks in our yard and called it a wrap. I wonder what my toad must have been thinking as the surrounding air suddenly vibrated with pops and booms. Toads can hear, you know. It probably felt apocalyptic.
I’ve never been a huge Fourth of July celebrator. Well, I guess I was when I was younger and still so fond of the drink. I can remember/not really remember a few July 5 mornings nursing both hangover and sunburn. But now, it just makes me think of too many people, ridiculous traffic, and a whole lot of noise past my bedtime. This year, we were definitely more into the season premiere of Stranger Things.
Also, the current state of the union has me less inclined to proudly so hail this place. But I wasn’t going to talk about that, at least not on ‘Murica’s birthday. Yeah, I recognize the gift of freedom. In fact, I started the day doing CrossFit Hero WOD “Maupin,” named after U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Keith Maupin, who died in 2004 near Baghdad after Iraqi insurgents attacked his convoy.
- 4 Rounds for Time
- 800 meter Run
- 49 Push-Ups
- 49 Sit-Ups
- 49 Air Squats
Yes, I did all of that, which is another reason I wasn’t so keen to do anything other than hydrate and recline on the couch. But under the guise of being a Good Mother, I asked my son if there was anything he’d like to do.
“No,” he said. “I’m not a fan of July 4.” What a weird thing to say, I thought. “Why not?” I asked.
“It’s just too hypocritical.” My 14-year-old son was using a five-syllable word in casual conversation (#winning). I asked him to explain.
“Because. The Fourth of July was celebrated back when there were still slaves and before women had any rights. And now there’s children in cages, and all kinds of people who still don’t have freedom. So I just think it’s stupid.”
Cue: awkward silence. I was reluctant to shout out, “YEAH, you right!” because despite what the resident despots and dickheads are doing to ruin our common sense of decency, this is indeed a great country defined by remarkable opportunity and humanity. But I didn’t want to say that either, because my teenage son had just said something so thoughtful and germane, so indicative of him not always being fully immersed in Fortnite battle, that it was nearly blowing my mind.
So I just nodded at him, and said, “Wow, honey. That’s very well-reasoned. I’m proud of you.” Later he decided to make some red velvet cupcakes, and he dyed the icing blue. Maybe there’s a little patriot in there somewhere.
We didn’t exactly celebrate the Fourth, but we recognized the day in our own way. We appreciated having access to fresh water and food. We breathed fresh air. We had a safe place to sleep. Of course, even my toad had all that.
I wish the rest of the world did, too.