Today Mae went on a mountain bike ride with Ben, her friend Sasha and his dad. They rode around Lake Lagunitas, tearing uphill and coasting down. They stopped frequently to hunt for frogs. Not to eat, I guess it goes without saying, though those Frenchies like to, but to keep as pets.
They found a few but as the whole pet idea hadn't been cleared with the boss (that'd be me), it was a morning of catch and release. Later in the day we returned to Lake Lagunitas for a picnic with our extended family and that's when I got the plea. Sasha, it seems, caught a frog a year ago and has kept it safe and healthy at home in a terrarium his mom got for free off craigslist. Couldn't she, couldn't she find a frog and take it home?
A lot of back and forth until we finally reached the rather inevitable conclusion. Mae found a frog, stowed it in a tupperware with some creek water and a piece of wood to perch on, and we took it home. Mae decided that she was a she (from what basis I don't know but I wouldn't put it past that kid to know a male frog from a female) and that her name was Farmel. Farmel because she thought first of Farmer but felt it was too masculine. And Farmel sounded like Carmel and what's not to like about Carmel?
As we got ready for bed, we could hear Farmel croaking tentatively, plaintively. I imagined her calling for her people and hearing only us - girls chattering, Mihiretu screaming for "chicken", his reliable last ditch try for food before he falls over asleep. I casually said to Mae as I was urging her towards the bathroom to pee that I felt a little sad for Farmel, so far (ha, ha) from home.
Next thing I knew, Mae was hiding her face in her nightgown, swiping at tears. I immediately assured her that there was nothing to feel bad about, Farmel was doing okay, I hadn't meant to make her feel guilty, but Mae was felled by grief. Slowly we teased out her conflicting feelings of love and excitement over this new pet with pangs of sadness that this wild creature was not where it belonged. Ultimately, we came to the compromise of returning Farmel - tonight - to her natural habitat, the very rock on which Mae found her, and researching a small pet for Mae, a domesticated pet, a pet that might enjoy being in our home. A pet that she must, without fail, feed, water, and clean up after. Yeah, right.
And while I feel a little cornered into taking yet another living creature into my care, I have to admire my girl. She has such a big heart, my Mae. She can see beyond herself and her own desires to the needs of others in a way that seems beyond her age. I guess that kind of heart deserves a little something extra to love. Like a gecko, God help me.