This is one of my favorite quotes, lines rather, from a favorite story. A very simple story, Alone, one of the many Frog and Toad stories written by Arnold Lobel. As they find themselves in various situations and predicaments, Frog and Toad delight children and impart profoundly simple wisdom about the necessity, commitment and significance of friendship to adults reading the stories to children.
I missed out on Lobel’s stories the first time around; most were written in the 1970s, a decade after my easy-reader days. But twenty years later, my childhood best friend, who worked in children’s publishing and television in California sent me Days with Frog and Toad, the book and cassette tape.
I tucked them away for the time when we had children, five years later, in 1995. Then on one of the many sleepless nights I sat rocking my weeks-old son in the nursery and talking with my husband, who had stretched out on the floor. We were both trying to outlast the robo-baby who, aside from stray naps, stayed awake nearly around the clock.
I’d come across the tape and he put it in and as we listened I began to giggle, then laugh until nearly hysterical; I recognized the deceptive simplicity of the author’s wit in the antics, adventures and ordinary moments shared by best friends, which was, of course, why Karen had sent them. Frog and Toad reminded her of us: they boosted each other’s morale, celebrated special occasions, played tricks and labored over decisions, shared secrets and burdens and stuck together. They were there for each other no matter what.
Frog and Toad were much like we’d been, first surviving adolescence and boys, learning to shave our legs and wear makeup; writing poetry, playing music and making art, weathering heartbreak, school and then work, long distance moves, marriage and having children, creating a lifetime of memories.
Just over two weeks ago, I received a box from Karen, still my best friend, who recently moved back to California; I miss her terribly in spite of frequent phone calls and emails. She warned me more than once not to touch it, not even a moment early. So, I dutifully waited until my birthday, this past Thursday, and much to my surprise and delight, inside were Frog and Toad, together, stuffed and smiling, dressed in their smart jackets and slacks, with a message: “To my favorite Frog from your favorite Toad.”
I held them up and my kids cheered – they know the stories. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. This is also the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of our friendship, years before Lobel published the first of his Caldecott Honor-winning books. It’s hard to comprehend the scope and depth of a relationship nearly as old as we are, all the crazy things we’ve done, ways we’ve found to make life a bit easier, more fun and a whole lot more meaningful for each other.