Stumbling upon a toad adhered to my kitchen window a few months back stirred a multitude of emotions in me. Not the scared, grossed out "eww" emotions of an amphibian in my vicinity; but the "eww" emotion of NOT feeling grossed out by a slimy toad splayed out on the screen in front of me and my dish suds.
I am almost at the five year anniversary mark of my move here to Nashville. I guess that makes me officially southern. Woo hoo! This toad's tummy in my face only reiterates the fact that this city girl has since come a long, long way.
Prior to moving here, I experienced various stints in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City. My life was a metropolitan bonanza of apartment living. In Boston and New York, I made a point of never looking down at the subway tracks, out of fear of spotting a brazen rat. Even though I adored my two pet cats, I never - NEVER - considered myself an "animal" person. They had their place and I had mine. Enough said. The occasional trips to the zoo or Sea World when I was young never lit that passionate spark that so many other children embrace. Petting zoos made me gag and the thought of camping - CAMPING - never crossed my mind. Tents and sleeping bags need never apply with me.
When I got to my old brick home on three acres of hilly space in the middle of Tennessee with two small little boys in tow, I had no idea what I was in for. I would stare out the windows in awe of all the birds, butterflies, and bees. A tiny lizard would stare back at me at any given moment from the barren front porch (I had a front porch!). Part of me was mystified and the other part was shaken to my core. What were all these freaks of nature? And furthermore, what the hell were they doing bothering me?
I tried to do my part by spending time with the boys outside each day. This was nature. Natural. They should love it. And I should be a good mom by encouraging them to love it. And boy, did they. Every day, for hours, they would swing and run and get dirty and be, well, boys. This was our great outdoors. I had read Walden in college. That's what this was about. I would embrace my inner Thoreau, sit on the back deck (I had a deck!) and watch them, reflecting upon each breathe at a time, trying to stave off the panic attack I felt myself incessantly careening towards.
Admiring my wall of roses (I had roses!) one sunny afternoon, I looked down and viewed a peculiar looking beige rock hiding underneath the bush. It looked like a small rock of the brown variety but upon observing it even closer, I saw that it had eyes. And a pulse. It jumped. Oh my G-O-D!!! It was a frog! A toad! A frog-toad! Whatever the hell it was, I was witnessing one for the first time in my life first hand. In front of my very well mascara'd eyes.
Of course, I ran inside to wash my hands. Even though I hadn't touched him/her/it, I was still very wary of warts. I was also wary of my curiosity. "Why the hell am I going back out?," I thought. Like Eve's attraction to the apple, I was drawn to this mysterious creature of the rose bush. When I got back to the deck, I noticed she had moved. She. Her jump was dainty and soft. Naturally, I assumed she was a she and I named her Rose.
Rose the frog/toad greeted me every day for the next week. She was in her same spot gazing back at me from under the palest pink bush of floral abundance. I was fascinated and almost enamored. With her and myself. I was a little wigged out (okay - a lot wigged out at the beginning) but I had ridden the A train every day uptown for almost two years straight, I could handle a frog/toad. Besides, this was nature.
After a week, Rose disappeared. My heart sank as I searched under the roses for anything with an amphibious resemblance. Like Charlie Brown on Halloween, all I got was a rock.
I was a little depressed. Rose's appearance uplifted me. I had witnessed and somewhat befriended a slimy frog toad and I had lived. This was a breakthrough on my way to becoming southern. Again, woo hoo. Although at this point I was feeling more boo hoo. Where had my Rose gone?
A few days later, I noticed something peculiar on the gravel driveway after coming home from a Target run with my nature boys. It was flat. It was beige. It was amphibious.
Oy gvalt. I ran over Rose!!!
My heart sank and my guts pulled. I wanted to cry and yet, I was too nauseated. How could a frog/toad affect me so damn much? The boys were young, barefoot and naked at every chance they got so I couldn't risk them walking on a dead, pancaked Rose (think of the wart potential?). Fred, of course, was on tour, not due home for another three weeks so I couldn't risk waiting for him to take care of it. I couldn't ask my neighbors for another favor because they thought I was too much of a princess and well, I WAS too much of a princess to handle this southern shit.
I scraped up every ounce of my inner Thoreau at Walden Pond, took a deep breath, grabbed our shovel (I had a shovel?) and scooped up my deepest connection to the animal kingdom - Rose - and stoically walked her back to our woods. I felt like Tom Hanks in The Green Mile. I paid her my respects and then tossed her back into nature.
Walking back to the house, I felt different. Rose had changed me.
The south had taken its hold on me and it has still never let go. These past five years have been nothing short of transformative. A Jewish girl from the San Fernando Valley practicing yoga and burying dead toads. Who says people can't change?