There is a frog in the hall, sitting on the banister post. He arrived in my child’s hand and now sits patiently, and because it feels rude not to acknowledge him, I make eye contact. I give a little nod to the frog in the hall as I shuffle past with laundry, search for sunglasses forgotten in my bedroom, race to check on the cake in the oven, its scent wafting upstairs. I give the frog a nearly imperceptible dip of my chin dozens of times a day, and his skin glints in return. One night, I tell my husband, “There is a frog in the hall.”
Or rather, there is a stone in the hall that looks like a frog.
Parenthood changes the geometry of all things. It is sedimentary. And it is a slow erosion. It ensures nothing will ever be the same by giving everything a new shape. Even the parts that still fit their old silhouettes or sit snugly in their former boxes have a different flavor now—a different scent. You wouldn’t notice if you hadn’t known the old one so intimately. The only way to explain it, really, is to tell you there is a frog in the hall. The same way the cardboard box is a spaceship or an oven or a pteranodon nest and some wadded-up socks are eggs. The same way you will find a castle in his room fit with gothic flourishes, and how sometimes he is the smallest kitten and other times he is a Tyrannosaurus rex, and while you might think his shape never changes, sometimes he wakes up taller. And sometimes, he says, “Mama, I have a question that might be hard to answer,” and I know neither one of us will be the same shape again.
I have tried to tell it straight—about the frog and the geometry and the cardboard boxes taking flight inside my house—and my child keeps braiding his way back in, adding more strands, making the story juicier with his sticky hands. Dear reader, maybe it isn’t a different geometry, but the same shape seen through a kaleidoscope: the cipher and the key. It is the message in a bottle to my former self, carried on the sea of blue fabric thrown across the living room floor, which is both a sea and a pizza. She wondered how it would be, and if she were here—which she is not—I would explain it this way.
My dear sweet girl: there is a frog in the hall you can’t unsee. Its taut legs curled underneath, ready to jump. Its smooth skin might be dappled and green, its bulging eyes facing out at the street. There it will sit, steadfast in its stony slumber. Its sleek eyebrow curls around a spherical eye that perceives a future you can’t imagine.
Christy Tending (she/they) is an activist, writer, and mama living in Oakland, California. Their work has been published in Longreads, The Rumpus, Catapult, and Electric Literature, among many others. You can learn more about their work at www.christytending.com or follow Christy on Twitter @christytending.