The amphibian was lost in the house. It would take a miracle to find it.
Though fall had always been my favorite season, two years ago it was anything but pleasant for me. John, my teenage son from my first marriage, decided to go live with his father in another state. I felt abandoned, as if God paid no attention to my prayers.
One October afternoon, exhausted from worry, I took my youngest, Jacob, to soccer practice. His brother Jordan, the amphibian aficionado, tagged along to scout the area for frogs. He pried the lid from one of the drains. "Mom! I found a frog! Can I keep him?" Before I could say no, he yelled, "Here's another one! And another!" Cupping the frogs in his hands, he ran to show me.
"But, Honey, this is their home. Don't you think they'd be happier here?" I asked.
Jordan persisted. He found an empty Slurpee cup, washed it out and put them inside. Just as practice ended he made a great discovery. The frogs, originally a light brown, had turned a pale beige, blending to match the inside of the cup.
"These guys are something else," Jordan said excitedly. "What if we keep them for a day, then let them go at the duck pond? There's lots of frogs there."
"Yeah, Mom, could we?" Jacob begged, as he peered into the cup.
Not having the energy to argue, I agreed. On the way home, Jordan noticed distinguishing marks on the frogs' heads. We called the one with a heart-shaped spot Love. The one with a T was Tigger. And the frog with a J-shaped splotch inspired the name Jumper.
At home we transferred Love, Tigger and Jumper to a five-gallon bucket, which the boys furnished with rocks, water, a small branch and as many bugs as they could find. They covered the bucket with plastic wrap, securing the edges with a large rubber band and punching air holes in the middle.
Jordan played with the frogs constantly. I had to tell him to put them back in the bucket before one hopped away. The frogs were only about two inches long and I was afraid they would get lost. When the one-night frog sleepover turned into two, I reminded Jordan that he had said he would release them. "Can we keep them just a little while longer?" he pleaded. On the third night the frogs looked less energetic. "I'll let them go tomorrow," Jordan said. "I promise."
Before school the next morning a cry rang out. "Jumper's missing!" Jordan yelled.
We searched his room high and low to no avail. "What if we put some food and water by the pail in case he comes back?" Jordan suggested.
With three kids, two adults, two dogs and four cats running around our house, I didn't give Jumper good odds for survival (I had the feeling he had made a tasty snack for one of our felines), but I didn't have the heart to tell that to Jordan.
Jumper still hadn't turned up by the time the boys got home from school. What did I expect? I thought. Nothing's gone right for us lately. We walked to the pond and let Love and Tigger go.
I tried not to mention poor Jumper's fate. As the days passed the boys got absorbed in their activities again. To my relief, they stopped asking about the missing frog. I had enough on my mind with their brother John so far away. I couldn't help worrying about whether he was okay.
One weekend I went on a cleaning binge, and saw on the floor a stack of thick books that needed to be reshelved. I picked up the atlas on top, and noticed a brown lump. I bent down to investigate. Oh, no, it looks like a squashed frog. Then one of its legs moved.
"Jordan!" I called. "Look!"
"It's Jumper!" he cried. Quickly, we filled a bowl with water and put Jumper in. Within seconds his body plumped up. I told Jordan that I couldn't imagine how a tiny frog had survived the onslaught of cats, dogs and my vacuum cleaner.
"I prayed for him, Mom," Jordan said. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do?"
The next day we took Jumper to the pond, where a crisp autumn breeze rippled the surface. The boys released him at the water's edge, and he leaped right in.
It was time for me to let go as well, to give my son John room to make his own decisions. Praying for him, as his brother had reminded me, was what I needed to keep doing. God would see to it that he was all right in the end.
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