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Missy Estes to me
show details 10/8/10

My second-born son loved animals of every kind, so when Hayden found two tiny frogs on our visit with Grandmother to the local greenhouse, wonder shone in his big mahogany eyes. He knelt down and picked them up. “Hello, little ones.”

The owner of the greenhouse shot to the top of Hayden’s Hero List when she told him he could have the frogs for a nickel. Hayden held out his chubby four-year-old hand as he showed her his seven pennies. “I don’t have a nickel.” Tears seeped from under his long lashes.

The lady chuckled and took five of his pennies. "The frogs are yours and I will leave you two pennies because you're such a sweet boy." An electric smile danced across his face.

Hayden cooed to the frogs all the way home. Just as Grandmother was parking the car, the frogs were christened with names. "Momma, I'm naming them Peanut Butter and Jelly. I love those samwiches, just like I love my froggies!"

As we opened the front door, Hayden’s older brother came running out to meet us. “Look! Bobby, see what I’ve got!” He held out both his tiny hands to display his pets. “I got two frogs. This one is Peanut Butter and this is Jel……oops!” Jelly had jumped to the ground. Hayden panicked. “Jelly!” Trying to hold on to one frog while trying to re-capture the other was more than a four-year-old mind could solve. Instinctively, Hayden slammed his foot down on the escaping frog. The realization of what he had done came too late to stop the inevitable. Jelly, sadly, was now very much like his newly given name.

The tears flowed and his heart was broken. Promises of ice cream or a new truck did nothing to make him feel better. I was able to finally get him focused on "preparing for the remains". We made Jelly a coffin and planned a short funeral. The crying returned, however, when Bobby accidentally laughed during this ceremony. Oh, the joys of raising sons.

That night Hayden and I decorated a home for Peanut Butter. We used Grandmother's old I. Miller shoebox and some flowery wrapping paper. By ten the crisis was over.

The next day everyone was in better spirits. Hayden played in the front yard with Peanut Butter and had a blissful morning. That afternoon he decided to show his pet off to the neighbors. “But, first, Peanut Butter needs a bath. He got dirty playing outside."

I agreed to the bath but cautioned him to make sure he turned on only the cold water. “Do you know which handle is cold?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he said. “It’s this one.” He showed me by holding up his right hand.

“That’s right! Let me help you pull a chair up to the kitchen sink.” Just as we got the chair pulled up, the phone rang. “Just a minute, Honey. I have to get the phone. Don’t do anything until I get back.”

While I was gone Grandmother went into the kitchen to get some water. She offered to help Hayden, but he dutifully waited for me.

I helped Hayden climb on the chair. He put a small pan in the sink with Peanut Butter in it and carefully placed the pan under the waterspout. He turned on the cold water. Peanut Butter was instantly boiled alive. It seems Grandmother had used the hot water just before we turned on the cold, and there was enough left in the tap to end Peanut Butter’s short life.

This time we both cried. I cried not because we lost Peanut Butter, but because Hayden had been such a good owner and had tried so hard. Yet in the end, both frogs died at his hands. That’s a tough lesson for a four-year-old.

Hayden has since grown up, married, and had children. I have noted he is a bit of a hovering father. I sometimes wonder how much Peanut Butter and Jelly have to do with this. Probably nothing, but who knows?

(Words: 674)