I hate frogs.  No, I don’t mean like a rational dislike of frogs, I mean a deep-seated, all-encompassing hatred of the amphibious pests.  Growing up, I lived in rural Manatee County, on the West Coast of Florida, down a long, washboard dirt road.  The road dead-ended at my house — a simple one-story ranch with a car port and front porch.  Our home was surrounded by an acre of mossy oak trees and dozens acres more of pasture land for the cattle to graze.  It was a wonderful place to grow up, in most respects.  But we had a very slimy, very green problem around my childhood home … we were lousy with frogs.  Now, being in Florida, you’d expect to encounter some frogs here and there, especially after a good rain, but we had a full-on plague of Exodus proportions at our house.  There were frogs on the car port, frogs on the porch railings, frogs on the chains of the porch swing, frogs lined on the back of rocking chairs.  Even inside the house, which didn’t have air conditioning until I was 16, there were always frogs stuck on the window screens in every room of the house.  They’d be there taunting us, flashing their über-gross soft underbellies, and I’d make a point to go around and thump those screens as hard as I could to send those nasty frogs flying.

The frogs had a particular fondness for our front porch which made frog encounters a daily occurrence.  The front door, in particular, was such a frog haven that no one in my family would dare use it because there was a 90 percent chance that one or more tree frogs would jump from the top of the door right onto your head as soon as you opened the door.  When some stranger was lost and needed directions, or wanted to sell us encyclopedias or vacuum cleaners, they’d drive up to our house, ring the doorbell, and wait patiently outside that front door.  The sound of the doorbell gripped us with fear.  “Who’s going to be the one to open the front door?”  “What if the frogs jump on the sweet little old lady peddling Watchtower pamphlets?”  Even worse, “what if the frogs jump on ME and then get in our house?”  Usually, one of us would just go out the car port door and wave the visitor over to the frog-free side of the porch.  Every once in a while, though, someone would get brave or complacent and forget about the frog colony hiding there above the door.  Let me tell you, there was nothing quite like seeing my sister Melissa, with her sky-high blond 80s hairdo, nonchalantly strutting out the front door to our house like she didn’t have a care in the world.  One second, Melissa would be full of sass with her hips swinging and her nose up in the air, and the next she’d be doing the frog Mambo all over the front porch which involved running around frantically, screaming “get it off, get it off!” like a banchee, and giving herself whiplash trying to free the entangled frogs from their Aquanet prison.

Me and my siblings circa 1988, with Melissa in the front row on the left.

After dark, even the safe zone on the porch was overtaken by a convoy of fat toad frogs.  God help us if we left the house to go out to dinner and forgot to turn on the car port light.  We’d come home later that evening to a pitch black car port, with nothing but the moon and stars for illumination.  Tiptoeing out of the station wagon, we just knew toads were everywhere underfoot.  “Oh no, I think I squished one.”  “Oops, I kicked one on accident.”  Traveling those five feet from the backseat of the stationwagon to the door was like walking through frog-infested quicksand.  I’d hold my breath until I got inside to safety.  When I’d flip on the car port light, I’d inevitably see a half dozen toad frogs lounging around the welcome mat, much to my disgust.

I can’t tell you how many times my mama tried to talk me off the ledge and calm me down when I was having a frog-induced meltdown.  “Marilyn, don’t be silly, honey.  A little ole frog can’t hurt you.”  Daddy, however, exploited his children’s collective fear of frogs for his personal amusement.  He made a game of chasing us around the house with cupped hands threatening to toss a frog on us as we squealed, lept over furniture, and fled down the hall to our bedrooms to escape, stuffing pillows under the door for good measure.

As I got older, you might think that my frog phobia would have lessened.  Au contraire, it fluorished into full-blown mania.  When I was old enough to drive, I’d park my spiffy Dodge Shadow under a sprawling oak tree in the front yard where a legion of tree frogs would haunt me day and night.  As soon as the coast was clear, I swear those frogs high-fived each other with the sticky pads of their webbed feet and gleefully drew straws to see which one of them could terrorize me next.   Their mission was simple but highly effective.  They’d slip their slimy little bodies into the tiny opening around the door frame of my car above the driver’s side door.   When I’d go out to get in my car, a tree frog would jump out and scare the bejesus out of me, causing me to say all manner of four-letter words.  You’d think, statistically, I’d have at least a 50 percent chance of the frog jumping away from the car instead of inside the car but, noooooo, those blasted frogs would jump inside my car nearly every dang time.

So how would I, a smart, sophisticated, mature, and responsible young woman, deal with this minor inconvenience?  I would FREAK OUT, of course!   I’m talking TOTALLY LOSE IT.  I’d cry and wail and wrend my garments in anguish.  I’d try desperately to find the frog’s hidden lair and extricate it from my vehicle, but most days I had no choice but to drive to my destination with a death-grip on the steering wheel, just waiting for that frog to pounce.  This horror show went on for years.  There I was, a seemingly normal person, an A-student who sang alto in the church choir, driving around town bargaining with a frog.  First, I’d threaten the frog within an inch of its life and dare it to show its nauseating face.  Then I’d beg and plead with the frog to stay hidden and leave me alone.  Every sharp turn or bump in the road filled me with the fear that I would inadvertently dislodge the frog from its hiding place and send it sailing through the air to land on my forehead or plop in my lap, which would undoubtedly cause my untimely death in the ensuing fiery crash, leaving the frog unharmed.

They say desperate times call for desperate measures, so eventually I had to leave home just to escape the plague of frogs.  Actually, that’s not true.  I left home to attend law school but, fortunately, no matter where I’ve lived since I left home, I have never had a problem with frogs.  Apparently, city frogs are not nearly as plentiful or aggressive as their kin out in the country, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Me and my siblings today. From the left: Will, me, Michelle, Melinda, Melissa, and Melanie.

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