I began checking my watch around 6 on Sunday evening. I knew the drive should take about 5.5 hours without stops, add in the bladder needs of 6 teen girls and 1 adult female and I figured anytime between 6 and 6:30 the phone should ring. Roughly 7 hours earlier I had waved goodbye to both C and A as they headed north to help repair homes and work with children at a Native American reservation. It was the first time both girls would be gone for more than a night…at the same time…giving my husband and I exactly 5 nights and 6 days to test out the “empty nest.” And, we had plans to enjoy every minute alone. We just needed that “got there safely” call to come through to let out our breath and turn our focus to each other.
“They should be there anytime,” I told my husband at about 20 minutes past 6. I tried to conceal my pacing and busied myself in the kitchen. I was beginning to feel anxious, which does not help in the romance department. I double checked the voicemail. No message. I paced some more. Ring, phone, ring! And then, almost in direct answer to prayer, the phone rang.
dove across the table casually answered the phone with a “Hello, honey!” only to have my eardrums pierced by the high pitched squeals of 6 teen girls confined in a van while amped up on the entire double batch of chocolate chip cookies I had sent along for the journey. My daughter was rambling at lightening speed and in a tone that I’m pretty sure only dogs could hear.
“Whoa…what? Slow down. You’re where?”
More screeching and garbled giggles and cryptic noises that sounded like words but in an unfamiliar language.
“C, slow down,” I implored.
“Mom, we’re feeling froggy. We got lost and we’re still about 2 hours away. We ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and there was a gas station but it was closed so we had to pull over and ask a farmer and his wife if they had some gas and they did so it’s all good. We just wanted to let you know we won’t be there for about another 2 hours and not to worry.”
In the background, one of the other girls screeched, “OMG, it’s a dead deer!” which created a shrill so loud I’m surprised the windows didn’t blow out.
Now, the only way to get the full impact of the first 2 minutes of this call is to gather together with 5 friends, suck on some helium, and record the passage verbatim. Then, play it back on double speed. However, in the interest of your hearing, I don’t recommend it.
But, I digress…
Once I began to peel away the facts; lost, middle of nowhere, out of gas, ALL the cookies, I began to suspect I was being punk’d. I casually went along…”Uh-huh, middle of nowhere. You missed a turn. It’ll take another 2 hours before you get there. Farmer gave you enough gas to get to a station. Okaaaay…. Can I talk to A?” (My younger and very serious daughter who would never pull a prank like this.)
A gets on the phone and restated everything her sister had squealed. My stomach dropped. They had genuinely gotten lost and were now driving through the middle of nowhere. They had honestly run out of gas. And, they were really not going to get there until almost sunset. From somewhere in the background I hear, “Thank you for the cookies! They saved me!” I think it was the young girl who had just gotten her braces off and had laser surgery on her gums only 2 days earlier. I immediately wondered if they shouldn’t begin rationing the remainder of their food and drinks– just in case they get lost again before finding the reservation set somewhere on 2.2 million acres of Wyoming wilderness. I ask to speak to C again.
“Are you all OK?” I ask, even though they’re obviously more than OK–they’re on a sugar high of epic proportions.
“Ya, Mom. We feeling froggy. Ya know. We’re froggin’ it.”
I thought back to the previous Sunday’s sermon. On the large screen behind the pulpit was a picture of a frog. Our interim pastor, in her slight Louisiana drawl, asked the congregation “Do we know what it means to FROG?” (Little did she know that the answer was plainly and prematurely displayed behind her.) Collectively, we snickered before she went on to explain that the acronym comes from St. Jude’s Hospital, where the little patients are given t-shirts with a frog on them and reminded to FROG: Fully Rely On God.
Slowly, I begin to let out the breath I didn’t even realize I’d been holding. My daughter again reassured me they were all “feelin’ froggy”, which is really all I could ask for of my girls and myself at that point. Immediately, I could see the blessings in the unplanned adventures of their day; the extra time for the girls to bond, the farmer and his wife who happened to be sitting outside as they drove by and just happened to have some spare gas, the laughter and the squeals of youth, and the chance to FROG.
C promised to call again when they safely arrived. I thanked her for calling and hung up the phone. “This is a test. This is only a test,” I thought. This is what life will be like far more often than not from here on out. Situations I can’t control as they move further and further from our nest. I promised myself that I would learn to FROG better, just as they are during their week away.
I served our dinner plates and turned my attention to my husband. With soft music playing and the lights dimmed, we raised our wine glasses and toasted each other and our two awesome girls. We were feeling pretty froggy, too.
How about you, are you feelin’ froggy today?
About the watch: Knowing that I am a long time Kermit fan, my sister gave me that watch last month before my husband, girls, and I all headed out to California to take care of some family estate business. She thought it would bring me a smile if/when things got tense, and smiles it did bring me. Often. I mean, it’s Kermit, who is always “foot loose and fancy free.” How could I not smile when I looked at his little green face? Little did I know Kermit would come to offer me an important daily reminder, for which I am so grateful.