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It's a rare occasion when one finds a frog in San Diego. The day I discovered the unlikely visitor, the sun scorched the ground with its fiery fingers and heated up the air as if it were soup. I sat, perspiring, on the prickly grass near a pond. My tongue hung from my mouth, creating the impression of a thirsty Labrador retriever. The frog sat upon the mud leading into the pond; its beady eyes blinked now and then, proof that it was alive. The blistering heat affected the both of us, and we sat together as comrades. Abruptly giving a little hop, the frog landed, with a splash, into the pond water. I gave it a small smile of approval, urging it on its escape from the sun. It leapt once more and completely immersed itself. The green frog disappeared, as if buried underneath the water. It reminded me of the green frog, a special frog I held in my memories, from Mother's story.
Mother's story was not meant to be a tragedy but it had, at the time, made my seven-year old self worry about losing my loving mother. Although older now, I recall that in my childhood, I often became disagreeable to the words and actions of my mother. Often, she reprimanded and scolded me as normal parents would, but I clenched my fists and yelled back. Rarely did I listen to her words because I utilized my time for running rampant on my own. My youth prevented me from realizing how cherished her presence should be. I failed to recognize how weary my mother had become with my consistently wild behavior. Her patience wore thin and eventually she told me this story with her last shred of tolerance for my unruly ways.
On that day seven years ago, Mother looked weary; from my perspective, wrinkles were beginning to settle underneath her bright eyes. The skin of her worn, aging hands whispered the burden of raising a boisterous child. Playing amongst the green dew-covered grass, I stubbornly returned home because of Mother's call from the battered screen door. Yanking the flimsy thing open, I rushed inside while kicking off my shoes in the same motion.
"Mother?" I shouted, peering into the vacant rooms in search of Mother.
"Hye Sim, could you please put your laundry away? I'm sure I've asked you several times," Mother replied from the living room, stressing each word. I rolled my eyes as I stomped into the living room. Standing with my arms crossed and an irritated pout on my face, I stood glaring at Mother.
"I'll do it later," I whined, angrily sighing as if forced to carry a heavy burden. Mother's eyes flickered. A look of absolute sorrow swept over me as I gazed into them. I shook my head at the thought for I never considered Mother's feelings about my own disagreeable behavior.
"Just like the green frog," Mother chided, looking away as she slowly continued the dull task of house chores. Her words sparked my curiosity which was often insatiable in its strive to investigate.
"What green frog?" I asked, my eyes pleading for her to tell the secrets I didn't know.
Mother smiled, like a cat would before it pounces on a mouse, as if she anticipated my every word. The wrinkles appeared to fade and her skin glowed with a renewed energy, showing her true image. It contrasted greatly against the worn and exhausted picture I saw before. Her lips parted and the first few words of the story trailed out in her warm voice.
"There was a green frog, sitting next to the river crying." My eyes flicked up to hers. They appeared different; shadows cast over them, concealing their twinkle. "This green frog never listened to his mother. Whenever she asked him to do something, he would do the complete opposite." I stifled a yawn. This story gave no prospect of amusement and slowly my attention retreated into an unending spiral of boredom.
"One day," Mother continued, the corners of her mouth slowly sloping downwards, "the mother of the green frog was dying. She knew the green frog would do the opposite of what she said, so she begged him, ‘when I die, bury me in the river.'" My yawning stopped as I began paying attention. The story tasted bitter and melancholy, as if each word had wallowed in an unpleasant past.
"And then," she gasped, her eyes vacant as if they could not see, "She died." The words barely escaped her lips before Mother suddenly collapsed. Her abrupt movements shocked me and I sat, next to Mother, unsure of what had occurred. I reached out and shook her shoulder, attempting to wake her up. I began bawling uncontrollably, fearing for Mother, who lay so still and unmoving, with one tiny smile left on her face. The last smile of her life, or so I thought.
My sniveling went on for a minute, and then another, and another. Eventually, all my tears ran dry. There was no energy left in me. My eyes were as red as two ripe tomatoes and my cheeks radiated with the glistening, wet tracks of my numerous tears.
"Mother?" I whispered one last time. My chubby, child fingers clumsily prodded my mother as I prayed for anything short of a miracle.
Mother opened her eyes and chuckled. I immediately understood her laughter had been directed towards me. She wasn't dying, I thought angrily. She tricked me! Furiously rubbing my aching eyes, I wiped away any excess tears and put on a livid front.
"That wasn't funny," I growled, unhappy with her tricks. My hair fell across my face, hiding my tears of relief which streamed out.
"But you see how the green frog felt? He never listened to his mother but when she died, he became so upset; he listened to her and buried her in the river. In the end, the river carried his mother's body away and he never got to see her again," Mother replied gently. Her face radiated a loving feel as she opened her arms and I ran into them, bawling. I never felt life or death experiences yet this trick brought me to tears. I always disregarded the words of Mother as I found them silly and unimportant. My rotund legs and arms lay limp against my sobs, my entire body shuddering with each tear that slid down my cheeks.
During that time, my inept ability to comprehend Mother's stories hadn't bothered me. I listened to her more often but I continued my childish antics. The words that had sent me to tears disappeared from my brain the next day, but I grew older, and eventually looked back. Mother's words expressed a meaning that blossomed in my heart as I continuously reflected on the green frog. I did not want the sad green frog to reside in my heart forever, never learning its lesson and mourning his loss. Ashamed of my childish incapability to show my love for Mother seven years ago, I persevered to express how much others meant to me. And in my heart, the miserable green frog disappeared forever.