There’s a story behind this frog.
Months and months ago Rachel fell in love with this frog at Barnes & Noble. His pink feet and flowery fur made it an odd choice for my girl who prefers ninjas and superheroes. She latched on to him and begged to take him home, but since we’re not in the habit of buying new toys for no reason, our answer was always an unfailing not today or maybe when your jar is full. Each girl has a small mason jar in which we place small, colorful pom poms for jobs well done – showing kindness, taking responsibility without having to be asked, or for other unsavory tasks we have bribed them to do. When someone’s jar is full, she gets a small prize. Ideally it teaches them to work towards a goal, but really it’s just the perfect solution to those random wants we’ve been trying to stave off buying.
Every time we visited a Barnes & Noble she hunted for the flower frog and asked to take him home. And each time we reminded her that she needed to wait until her jar was full. Only when her jar was full, she would get distracted by the instant gratification of something else – a Sonic the Hedgehog plush, a Ninja Turtle action figure. Flower frog was always put on the back burner.
For Christmas each girl received a Barnes & Noble gift card from my grandparents. They are in their late 80s and mostly housebound. My grandmother rarely left the house, and even the smallest outing exhausted her. I knew it was likely that the gift was actually procured by my parents on their behalf.
Rachel immediately recognized the store’s logo and her eyes widened.
“I can get my flower frog?”
So later that day we visited our local Barnes & Noble, the one where she had first seen the frog. Only there was no frog. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It had probably been the better part of a year since she had first fallen in love with it. In its place sat a new line of brightly colored plush animals, similar, but not quite the same. We scoured the kids’ section. I dug through a clearance bin of random animals. No frog.
“Is there something I can help you find?” an employee offered as I scattered plush characters around her station. I debated even accepting the offer, knowing it was a long shot. But I described the frog as best I could.
“Ah! I know exactly what you’re talking about.” Only they didn’t have one there. And she didn’t know what it was called. She was more than happy to call other stores for me, but we needed the damn frog’s name before she could even look it up in the inventory.
She listened patiently as I explained how Rachel had had her eye on that frog for months and months. And now that she actually had money to get it, I feared it was a lost cause.
But this woman wasn’t giving up on us. She scoured the internet for an image of the correct frog as I searched on my phone for the same. Let me tell you, there is no shortage of “flowered plush frogs” on the internet. But we finally found him. His name was Nina, and he might not actually be a him. And as a bonus, he was on clearance for $6.98.
I listened to her on the phone with a store across town, describing the item, and explaining to the other employee that yes, she knows they don’t normally place clearance items on hold, but this was a special circumstance. I wanted to cry and hug her for her unfailing kindness, but I settled on a sincere “thank you” and assured her that she had made my daughter’s day. I wish I had gotten her name. We trekked to the other store and picked up our new family member.
The Barnes & Noble employee’s kindness stays with me to this day. She may say she was just doing her job, but I’ve worked retail. I know that the times you are inspired to go above and beyond are few and far between. She didn’t know me or my daughter. It’s not the kind of place where they remember people who come in every 2 months or so.
My grandmother passed away a few days ago. Other than spending most of the day in a fog after I heard, I haven’t processed it much, and I doubt I will until her memorial service. She had fallen ill around Christmas time, was hospitalized, and then released to a rehabilitation center until she was strong enough to go home. Only then my grandfather fell and broke his leg. And he was sent to the rehabilitation center as well,
We traveled up to Dallas about a month ago to visit them both. They would often go back and forth between each other’s neighboring rooms, the nurses wheeling my grandfather into her room for breakfast, or her into his room for dinner. Knowing that they had this time together was oddly comforting, even if it wasn’t ideal. I worried about how they would cope when released and allowed to go back home. But a nagging feeling tugged at me that she wouldn’t be going back home.
Not long after we returned to Austin, I sent her an envelope containing a few drawings the girls had made. On a blank card featuring a lone leaf blowing in the breeze, I tearfully wrote her the words I could never say out loud – how much she meant to me, what an amazing example she and Pop have set for my own marriage. I had hoped that she would receive it and that someone could read it to her, even if it was while she slept. But I don’t know if anyone did.
Flower frog has been named Froggy, and he and Rachel go on many adventures together. I never got to tell her the story. I wanted her to know that the gift she gave – whether she actually “gave” it or not is irrelevant – was used for something special. I wanted to tell her that Froggy has a special place in our home now, and a special place in my heart.
I want her to know how much I miss her.