Family traditions are important. They provide continuity between generations. They involve things said and things done. They are part of the bond that holds families together.
We have a family tradition that goes back for generations (I’m told), but I first learned about it from my Uncle Phil while on family vacation as a young child. My uncle had eaten something that disagreed with him. I don’t recall if it was Mexican casserole or noodles or perhaps some combination of the two. I do recall that in the middle of watching a golf tournament on TV, he raised his leg and, well, pooted…tooted…broke wind…let one rip…made noise…whatever you want to call it. It happens. We all do it. And my uncle had just done it. Without hesitation, and without apology, he simply glanced up, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Was that a frog?” Despite only being five or six years old, I was pretty sure what had happened and that it wasn’t a frog. I knew what frogs sound like and what I had heard was similar and yet different…more like a frog that smoked cigarettes and had a very bad cold. But Uncle Phil was insistent, and the other males in the room all affirmed that the noise was indeed most likely attributable to an unseen amphibian in the room. So I went along with the deception, nodded that I too had heard the frog, and by doing so became a part of the family tradition.
Last night we parked our RV between two semi trucks in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Perry, Georgia. Full-timers do this on occasion (it’s called boondocking or living off the grid) on their way to the next destination as a way to save money on campsites and make the lifestyle more affordable. So we pulled in around 7pm, I went for a run, and then we played Cribbage and Sequence. As first-timers spending the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot, we were a little nervous about the truckers nearby, the safety of our tow vehicle, local gangs, and that sort of thing. But we’re on an adventure…and this is part of it.
About midnight we were just about asleep and I made a medium-sized noise. It happens. We all do it. Not only did Lil Jan not scold me, but she further secured her place in family tradition with these little four words: “Was that a frog?” I smiled and affirmed that it was indeed a frog and nothing to be alarmed about…aside from the fact that the frog needed to quit smoking.
Twice during the night something happened that you may not believe, but it is 100% true and one of the weirdest and funniest things that’s ever happened to us. At about 1:30 a.m., Lil Jan was awakened by something cold landing on her arm. She gasped, flicked her arm, and sat up but didn’t see anything. I, of course, didn’t notice her agitation and if I had, would have dismissed it as just a dream. But an hour later, I was awakened from a deep sleep and startled by what felt like a cold, wet paper towel hitting me in the right thigh. I rose up in bed, took a swing at my right thigh, and hollered, “What was that?” Equally startled, Lil Jan quickly sat up and turned on the light. We look around and discovered a two-inch long tree frog on the wall next to me…the kind with the sticky legs that can climb anywhere. We laughed for a solid five minutes and she told me the same thing had happened earlier to her. We wondered where the little fella had come from. Did we carry him in a storage compartment all the way from Florida? Was he a Perry, Georgia, frog who lived in the Wal-Mart parking lot and was just checking on us? Or is it possible that he was from a nearby swamp and, two hours earlier, had heard a noise that he thought was a mating cry from a fellow amphibian?
We may never know the answers to these questions. But it made for a rather exciting first night boondocking in a Wal-Mart parking lot. As I released the little fella with a toss out the RV door, I decided to name him Phil in honor of my uncle. Because maybe Phil had been right all along, and the noise that had been heard in our RV at midnight was indeed just a frog.
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