The Meaning of Life is Toads. Seriously.

ToadSometimes when I sit down to write a post,  I have a clear idea in mind of what I want to say. Other times — like today — I have several things floating around in my head vying for my attention. In addition, I am easily distracted as I sit here at the dining room table. (“Where did that white glazed planter on the window sill come from? When did we get that? And when am I ever going to finish stripping that window sill, anyway?”)

Mostly what I have floating today is family-oriented, but not a lot of focus. So I apologize in advance if this post is rather disjointed.

On Sunday, Unnamed Partner and I took my 92-year old Aunt to lunch for her birthday. Yeah, 92. She lives alone since my uncle passed away about 4 years ago. That’s not easy, because she has macular degeneration and is losing her eyesight. She has someone come in several times a week to help around the house and to drive her places, but she’s still very sharp and ready to tell you what’s wrong with the Redskins defense or George Bush. So when I feel whiny because I used the loppers all afternoon recently to prune bushes in our yard, and then was sore for several days … yeah, I’m put back in my place.  I’ll be turning 48 this year, which seems awfully close to 50. But you know what? So what!  Come on 92!

Then I read a post this afternoon over at Suburban Lesbian Housewife– which was really about much deeper things, but which got me thinking about hunting for toads as a kid.  There’s a song — maybe you can tell who it’s by — that has the line “Sometimes I feel like I’m 18, Sometimes I feel like I’m 45.” But in my case, it’s “Sometimes I feel like I’m 10, Sometimes I feel like I’m 47.”

Oh wait, I am 47.

When I was a kid we went camping every summer. My dad saved up all his generous federal government vacation leave, and we would load up the Rambler and go for a week to campgrounds in Delaware, North Carolina, and South Carolina (which is where I developed my love for pecan pie). We did it so many years that certain things became rituals. For example, my mother always awoke before everyone else and watched the sunrise/lake/waves — depending on where we were. Each evening we cooked dinner on the old Coleman gas stove, which my Dad pumped until he got what we dubbed “Camper’s Thumb.” We cooked a lot of different things (including the signature dish of brother Dave and myself: “Spaghetti Sauce with Moth”), but it was understood that every  night we would boil extra water to put it into a thermos so that Mom could have a cup of coffee while she sketched or wrote a few lines of haiku in the morning (before we all crawled out of our sleeping bags.)

I think back to my first memories of camping, and I remember being completely uninhibited and carefree. (Here comes the toad reference.) When I was about 10 we rented a pop-up camper and stayed at Trappe Pond, Delaware. It is a “pond” in the New England sense; that is, it is actually more of a lake. We stayed at a campground full of trailers, tents, and pop-ups  — which today would be horrifying to me, but as a child was bliss. There were other children there, and we became friends quickly. Mostly we all bonded over the nightly ritual of … hunting toads. At the time, I felt we were hunting in the outback, but looking back on it now I realize that we were always in view of our parents sitting in folding chairs at our campsite.

Time is relative, and time is what you make of it. Today I stood at the microwave at work at 12:10, looked at my watch, and thought “Oh crap! I have to be at a meeting at 12:40!” Whereas a few years ago when I was teaching, the idea of having a full 30 minutes to eat lunch! would have been a blessing.  I wonder if I even had a concept of 30  minutes when I was 10 years old and hunting for toads.

Time is fleeting. Time is precious. Have piece of pecan pie — and then go hunt for some toads.



  1. This was so beautifully written. I feel like I was there with you. And time is fleeting – live, live and live some more. It is the only choice.

  2. Nicely done, Sue. You give us a vivid picture of your childhood and remind us of the importance of enjoying ourselves…and pecan pie.

    That’s the only kind of pie we make at our house btw–you’ll have to come sometime.

    For some reason, your stories remind me of a great Andy Griffith episode: “Man in a Hurry”.

  3. Wonderful post. I wish we still had that sense of timelessness we had as children. Remember when the summer stretched out before you looking like forever, with September so far away you couldn’t even see it?

  4. nicely written. wasn’t it nice when simple pleasures and unburdened time were the norm!

    when you come to maine we can all go looking for toads and moose!

  5. Great post! It’s Spring Peeper season at my house and you are invited to join me on a search for those tiny but tremendously talented tree frogs.

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