jolie laide: First Pet

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


First Pet

We are maybe 5 and 7, my sister and I. In the spring, braving leeches and various unknown creepy things, we scoop up a bucket of scummy pond water and tote it back home. That bucket has precious cargo: untold dozens of tadpoles. We dump them into a terrarium, and begin the watch.

Polliwogs are great pets. They don’t eat anything but their own tails. You can watch their tails and bodies get slimmer as they are ingested and turned into four little nubbies, then four little leggies, then real legs, with teeny toes, smaller than your own teeny 5 year old’s eyelashes.

Of course, there are casualties. Not all of them make it. Their numbers are severely depleted by the time we realize they need a rock in their terrarium, so they can start spending time out of the water. Something does seem to go wrong here, though. They climb out of the water, hang out on the rock…and get stuck. We keep having to pry them off with a butter knife. Tiny frogs, 7 years olds with knives, well, you know what happens to many of those brave survivors.

One makes it all the way to maturity, a brilliant green tree frog, no bigger than your adult thumb nail. Every day we catch him three ants (two for breakfast, one for spare), with the utmost care and fixed attention of children who know they are in the presence of something precious. We name it after the only other tiny rare thing we know: Bon Bon.


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