It is customary for new parents to give their unborn child a nickname; something other than ‘Baby’ or ‘It’ to use before the birth.
In our case, it was ‘Froggy.’
People thought it was cute, and heartwarming, but I don’t think many truly understood why we chose Froggy.
There is a small town in Northern Ontario. The hamlet of Gros Cap is nestled among the majestic redwoods and dense rock cuts of the Great Canadian Shield, approximately 40 minutes from Sault Ste. Marie.
Coming into town, you are greeted by Mr. Mageron’s handmade 240-hole ‘bird motel’ precariously perched atop a double height flagpole. To the left is a handful of homes tucked into the soft and mossy bush just on the edge of the sandy shores of Lake Superior; my grandparents’ among them. A right takes you to houses at the base a massive outcropping of boreal rock that is a playground for wild black bears, moose, foxes, rabbits and other woodland creatures. The laconic town comes to a natural end at a sleepy motel, just at the edge of the water, complete with an ice cream shop.
I lucked out with my childhood - playing city mouse in Toronto during the school year, and unleashing my country mouse every summer when I’d romp through the wilds of Gros Cap.
It was there that I learned yes, bears do shit in the woods.
If your sled runs into a tree, and there’s a hibernating porcupine in said tree, someone is going to have to explain to at least one mother why their snowsuit is covered in quills.
And, sticky frogs are notoriously difficult to catch and keep.
There was a vacant lot across the road from my grandparents house. And right smack in the centre of that six-acre lot was the best frog pond on Planet Earth.
It was too wide to throw a stone all the way across, but too small for a paddle boat. It was armpit deep at its deepest, and had the best squishy muck bottom any kid could want. It had bulrushes and reeds, leeches and turtles, fallen trees and decaying logs, sandy banks and rocky ledges. It was perfect.
The Gros Cap clan spent hours there, digging and discovering, munching on homemade packed lunches of ham sandwiches, and root beer. We’d all try to catch pond dwellers, but it was a foregone conclusion no one could outdo five-year-old Danny in the frog catching department.
Danny would stealthily slide into the pond and within the blink of an eye, he’d be holding a protesting bullfrog the size of a dessert plate.
For Danny, there was an art to frog catching. He knew their sounds. He knew their hidey-holes. He just knew frogs.
One sunny summery day, I was lazing at the edge of the pond.
A bunch of kids were around, tossing stones, breaking sticks - Danny, of course, was catching frogs. I don’t know why he had to leave, but he did. Seeing as I was the closest one to him, he lumbered over with a yogurt container in hand.
“Here. Watch my sticky frogs,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”
I looked into the container. It didn’t look like there were frogs in there at all; more like little drops of wet mud.
“They are really small. I’ve never caught three before. They don’t like being trapped. They want to be back in the pond. Don’t lose my frogs, k?”
Danny ran home.
I sat back down at the edge of the pond, a bit miffed that I’d just been told by a kid half my age that I had to babysit his container full of tiny frogs. There was no way a frog smaller than my pinky fingernail was going to get out of an eight-inch high yogurt container.
Clearly, I had underestimated young Danny’s knowledge of frogs. In fact, I had underestimated the frogs themselves.
No sooner had I decided that frog-minding was not in my best interest than I started to hear this funny sound.
*tip *tap *tap *tap
It was almost an echo. But it was fervent. Determined. Persistent.
I looked in the yogurt container to find all three tiny frogs literally scaling its walls, reaching valiantly for the lip at the top, sticking to the plastic like microscopic, superhero, mountain-climbing, amphibians. I started to understand why Danny called them ‘sticky’ frogs. They were sticking to the container; using their own might to regain their freedom.
I watched in wonder as a sticky frog wrenched himself over the edge, flinging its miniscule body onto the sand below.
It was a feat of nature that defied explanation.
It was a veritable tempest in a teapot. Or perhaps life or death in a filthy yogurt container.
All three pulled themselves out of the inhospitable plastic enclosure and barrelled towards the cool, watery freedom of their natural home.
A few minutes later, Danny came back.
“Aw man! You let them climb out?!” he wailed.
“Sorry Danny,” I said. “But those frogs really wanted to live. I had to let them go.”
He tossed off his flip flops and waded back into the water, saying nothing.
I assumed I had been forgiven.
And so, I’ve chosen to look at our journey to parenthood like the microcosm of the frog pond.
I’m standing on the edge of a wild and untamed environment, fraught with incredible life lessons - some hilarious, some devastating, and most, if not all, practical.
Amid the foxes and porcupines, snakes and bullfrogs, there are those often overlooked, smallest of creatures; those we can barely see, but who possess incredible might, courage and desire to survive.
Sometimes, if you look closely, you will find inspiration in the tenacity of the smallest, stickiest frog who fights against all odds just to get home.
Welcome to the pond, Froggy. We’re so glad you’ve made it.