You guys gotta see this! Ken calls.
Bee and I are dancing in the laundry room, a morning ritual we’ve fallen into. We play this song, and another, still another, she twirling her stuffed puppy or baby hedgehog or that odd Halloween decoration she’s been sleeping with.
Me moisturizing my elbows, applying concealer. Mascara.
Coming! we yell, barreling past the kitchen. We find Ken in the office with Scout in his arms, peering out the window at a baby frog nestled on the ledge. No bigger than Bee’s thumb, his smallness is enchanting.
We name him Frederick.
Bee and I throw on rain jackets, find the umbrella. We want to look at Frederick up close. We want to see him from the other side of the glass – to touch him, to hold him, to prove that he’s really and truly there, he and his smallness.
Is it a frog or a toad? I ask about Frederick as he balances on her thumb.
A frog, she says. Frogs like the water. Toads don’t.
I talked with a woman recently who likened her first year of motherhood to being underwater. I just wasn’t me, she said. I was me, but underwater, she said.
Underwater, I thought.
It sounded right.
We set Frederick free and wander inside, but later in the day we discover him again. He, just perched near the windowsill, gathering raindrops as big as he is, holding fast to the ledge, clinging to the brick.
He looks happy, Bee says.
If you’d ask me for proof of my current life, of recent existence, I’d point to daily artifacts: BOB books on the credenza, cracked egg shells in the compost, burpcloths piled near the washing machine.
Me and my smallness. Holding fast to the ledge, clinging to the brick.
She looks happy, you’d say.
Did you know frogs hibernate underwater?
When it’s time, everything slows. The heartbeat, the breath. The frog will burrow deep below, body temperature adjusting to her surroundings. Thin skin accepting oxygen from the water all around.
Proof of her smallness.
And when I think of it this way – of being here, underwater – in the smallness of motherhood, swimming through bananas and baby wipes and bedtime prayers while the outside world is crazed with political turmoil and heavy with angst, when the sky is chilling and tomatoes are dying and bad news is on the tip of everyone’s tongue?
Well, I suppose underwater isn’t so bad.
We are taught to think big. Go big or go home. Be large and in charge!
But I’ve never really believed in the good of that.
Give me the water. Let me hibernate, burrowed deep, thin skin and all. Let everything slow: the heartbeat, the breath.
Let us be small.
Will he be small forever? Bee asks about Frederick, hopeful. The rain has slowed; the clouds are beginning to lift.
Probably not, I answer.
But I realize I am hopeful, too.