• Learning to live with toads

    by Theresa Reichman

    “There are toads outside your door,” my friend, Heather says as she climbs the stairs of our condo. “It’s kind of creepy. They just sit there. Staring at you…”

    I sigh, “I know. They’re there every night.”

    While part of me appreciates the way these green soldiers stand vigil, saving us from the swarm of insects that flutter around the light by our front door, I tire of them.

    My 4-year-old becomes frantic with fear that the warty toads will jump on her and so she wildly scales my body and pleads with me to take her inside to safety. It’s not uncommon that I find myself with a purse slung over my shoulder, balancing the rigid body of my 35-pound child on one hip while guiding the hand of my wandering 2-year-old up the ominous flight of stairs night after night.

    Not to mention the ever present phobia of accidentally forgetting our little amphibian friends’ whereabouts and squashing one of them on the journey from the car to the house. I have nightmares of pulpy pools of frog guts littering the sidewalk outside our front door.

    I’m finding that something that seems endearing and comforting can quickly become annoying and bothersome.

    I avoid checking the mail.

    I used to love fanning through and plucking out birthday invitations, the local newspaper or the occasional hand-written letter.

    But now, there’s a frog in my mailbox in the form of our homeowner’s association.

    Every month we write a generous check for $135 to an association who vows to keep our streets clean, our grass trimmed, our trash disposed of and our homes safe. Much like our green guards, they provide a feeling of security.

    Until, that is, their slimy tongues lunge out and gulp down the contents of our wallet.

    In a subdivision with 228 units, all dishing out $135 a month, this little association accrues $30,780 a month. That’s $369,360 annually; more than double the price of our mortgage, and significantly more than the value of any of the units here.

    And yet, this association, this little slice of suburban bliss, in the sweet, sweet voice of Shirley Temple, implores us to keep our neighborhood looking beautiful by please, please, please with a cherry on top stain our deck this lovely shade of caramel-cedar that they’ve chosen? And then Shirley Temple morphs into the poltergeist and tacks on, “Or else we’ll assess a $100 fee to your account.”

    There’s always something. The dryer vents need cleaning, the decks need power-washing, there was too much snow this year, so we need to dish out an extra $75 to cover the unexpected plowing costs. Grudgingly, we comply, taking solace in our safe, comfortable, and aesthetically appeasing home.

    Maybe a big green pulpy puddle of frog guts wouldn’t be so bad after all; a cartoonish giant foot squashing this merciless association.

    Last night when I came home from work, the toads were gone. The humidity is dissipating and I realized that soon autumn will be upon us. A toad-less autumn, followed by a toad-less winter and probably a toad-less spring, too.

    I started thinking about seasons. Chapters. The eras of our lives. And I thought about my daughters and how it seems every day they are not only growing upward, they are growing spherically. They are growing into little people with big personalities. It won’t be long before our tiny family of four will outgrow our cozy two-bedroom condo. The seasons will change. The toads will be a thing of the past.

    And you know what I’ll remember about living here? Not writing the check to have our dryer vents cleaned, but the wonders of same-floor laundry. I won’t remember the one month we paid extra for snow plowing, but I’ll remember making snow angels behind our building with Scarlett, and how lovely it was not to lose my husband to hours of shoveling every winter. Not the $35 we spent to stain our deck, but the lazy summer afternoons my girls spent playing with their water table and drawing chalky creations there.

    Maybe toads aren’t so bad after all…

    • Great column today. Have you ever asked your association for an accounting of where the money goes? I have mediated for homeowners associations and it is clear some need more in depth monitoring. Just can picture those frogs. My house now has the sounds of crickets everywhere. Open the door at night and in they bounce. But eventually the sound in the house stops and either they have bounced out or are being swept into the vacuum cleaner. Not so easy with dead frogs.

    • I wonder if you tell Scarlett that if the princess kisses the toad, he turns into a prince. On the one hand, she might see them more whimsically. On the other… she may be kissing all the toads to turn one into a prince!

      • Theresa

      • October 4, 2011 at 6:46 am
      • Reply

      Madge, I’ll have to call the association and ask to have something sent to me with the budget. I am definitely curious. I know that they sock a lot of it away to an emergency account in case something comes up (or for the not-so-regular maintenance; re-shingling the roof, tarring the parking lot, etc..)

      Debra, the girls are watching an OLD version of the Frog Prince with Helen Hunt as a snobby princess as I type this!

    • Once in a while you might want to kiss one of those frogs-“the Prince Charming thingy- you know.

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