I didn’t have many ‘inspirational’ moments when I was growing up. In fact, I can count them all on one hand. I had one of those moments when I was very young, and it came to me during the first time I was independently reading. The book was ‘Frog and Toad Are Friends‘
‘Frog and Toad Are Friends‘ is a collection of easy to read short stories written for five to six-year-olds. There are five stories in the book, each telling a different tale of the adventures between a moody Toad, and an adventurous Frog.
It’s the first book I remember being able to read on my own. I remember looking at the lines on the paper, and the hazy feeling off things slowly transforming from vague and unintelligible to something a sort of remembered, something I sort of knew, then all of the sudden, I understood it! It snapped into my mind and I knew what I was looking at, I understood that these lines meant the same thing as talking, but in your head! I was absolutely giddy! Seriously, I clearly remember being beside myself with excitement. I had cracked some mystical nut and a whole world was suddenly open to me. The book was ‘Frog and Toad Are Friends’
I immediately grabbed paper and pencil and tried to copy what I saw. I was trying to ‘steal’ for the first time, even though I had no idea what I was doing. I had to have what I saw as part of me, forever. I wanted that feeling of inspiration, of discovery, to never disappear. And, I wanted to create that feeling, too. I wanted to recreate that feeling whenever I wished, to invoke it in others. So I had to learn how to write.
My favorite story back then was The Story. In it, Frog isn’t feeling well, so Toad offers to tell him a story. He then goes through a series of self-inflicted tortures to try to think of a story to tell Frog, but with no success. Eventually, Frog is feeling better and offers Toad his bed. Frog then tells him a story, detailing everything Toad had done trying to think of a story to tell Frog. I liked this one because it showed that everyday life can be a story. That just living is a story, and an interesting one at that. I could write about anything and that could be a story.
My current favorite is The Letter. In this one, Toad is sad because he never gets any mail, so Frog goes home and writes him a letter, giving it to a snail to deliver. Frog goes back to Toad’s house (Toad has gone back to bed), to tell him to wait for the mail. When Toad asks why he should wait, Frog tells him about the letter, which cheers up Toad and they wait for the mail together. This story means a lot to me now, particularly that my sister has passed. Writing actual, physical letters to my friends and family is a regular habit of mine, so this story rings true as both the sender and the receiver. I also think it’s interesting that this book was written in 1970, and the author predicted ‘snail mail’ even back then.
Reading ‘Frog and Toad Are Friends’ to my daughter brings back all the memories of that one clarifying and inspirational moment. I’ve tried to share that experience with her, tried to help her to find her ‘ah ha!’ moment when reading opens up everything. I don’t know exactly when that moment occurred for her, but we’ve shared so many books since then that the precise moment doesn’t matter anymore. I’m not sure if she’ll have the same emotional ties to this book as I have, but I’m sure she has hers in a book somewhere in her own library. And she’ll share that book with her kids, and so on down the line. Books will always play an important part in our lives because they are, quite simply, the gateways to the world.