It was a sad day in the Zappala home yesterday.

I was sitting on the cold hard wood bench in the upper bleachers at my son’s indoor soccer game when my phone rang. It surprised me because usually I can’t get a signal from inside of this behemoth of a soccer facility. It’s a cavernous building, as you’d expect from one that houses three indoor soccer fields. The noise was deafening. The crowd, the buzzers, the smacks of 7th grade feet on a soccer ball…it all echoed off the metal beams and wood walls.

I saw that the call was from home. My daughter Gina. She always calls when I’m out, usually with the mundane things like “Can I play Wii?” or “Can I make some hot chocolate?” Sweet requests that just tell me she wants to connect when I’m gone.

I answered “Hi Bell (her nickname…)! What’s up?” She was sobbing.

“Sweetie, what’s the matter?” I started to panic! She was alone in the house. It was dark, and the clock was inching toward bedtime. She’s 11…and I instantly felt guilt for leaving her.

“Mama!” she sobbed. “Freddie died!”

Oh no! Our frog. Well, he’s a toad, actually. Freddie was gone! I was so sad. Sad that we lost Freddie, but sadder that I couldn’t be there to console Gina. Ow…that hurt the worst. And I know the crowd of spectators around me who could hear my loud voice on the phone felt my hurt.

Gina loves animals. Any animal. Stuffed or breathing, she’s into them. We acquired Freddie about 18 months ago when she caught him in our yard. He was pretty big when she caught him, and she begged me to keep him. I relented, and thus Freddie was adopted into our family. We set him up in a large aquarium we had once used for goldfish, and did some research about how to care for him. By the time we learned he was really a toad, the name was already chosen, so Freddie the Frog has always suffered from a little identity crisis.

We learned he eats live crickets. Live crickets? Where do you get live crickets? Oh! The pet store. Duh. The first time we had to buy them, we were all creeped out. You should go to a pet store and just ask to see the container of live crickets. You’ll be creeped out too. But we got used to it. In fact, I got to the point where I really enjoyed the sound of the live crickets in the house. (Of course, we kept them in a container…at least we tried. Sometimes one would escape and we’d find them hopping about the house.) The chirping sound was musical and relaxing. When I didn’t hear it anymore, I knew it was time to restock.

Freddie gave our family, but especially my daughter, endless joy for the time he was with us. Every once in a while she’d take him outside and let him hop around for exercise. Watching him eat his crickets was fascinating. Watching him grow was odd He got huge…the size of my fist!

He was a great pet. Easy to care for, and fun to watch. We’ll miss Freddie.

I’m not sure of the life lesson I can glean from this event, but I felt compelled to write it down. We’ve had several pets come and go in our home…Jubilee our dalmatian, Buddy the turtle, a few goldfish, and countless ants and fireflies. Life, even animal life, brings joy and color and texture to life. And for that I’m thankful.

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