This year, instead of kissing a frog who turned into a prince, the latest Disney princess actually turned into an amphibian. (In case you missed it, "The Princess and the Frog
" comes out on DVD this week.) And, for the past two decades, owning a pet frog means I've endured every joke there is about the girl who kissed one.
For the record, my frog is named Maurice, and, against all odds, he just celebrated his 21st birthday, so he's legal. He even has his own Facebook fan page
. He's definitely "single." And there are plenty of my friends following his every move. But if he were to turn into my prince, he'd still be a little young for me. He was born a tadpole the week I turned 9.
I got him March 4, 1989. I arrived home and was greeted by a little Styrofoam container that the UPS man had left on our porch. Inside was my birthday present: a Grow-a-Frog. Well, a tadpole, actually. It was definitely a strange gift for a little girl who collected Barbies, loved to play school and dance on stage. But my mom, a neat freak, would never let me have a dog, and since I was an only child, I was excited to have my first pet.
I decided to name him Maurice after my grandfather who had passed away seven months prior. In the Jewish religion we name a new baby after someone who has passed away to honor them, so I guess that was my way of dealing with losing Papa Maury.
Maurice is an African aquatic clawed frog of the genus Xenopus. As a tadpole, he got a spoonful of blue powder to eat every day. After a few weeks, Maurice's tail simply disappeared, and he sprouted legs. My mom reports that I was "in awe." However, once he had become a full-fledged frog, the only real excitement involved cleaning his tank.
When Maurice grew bigger, he graduated to a bigger tank, and at first the tank-changing was a challenge. Once we tried just scooping him into our hands before relocating him, but he was so slippery he hopped away and disappeared under the washing machine. Panic ensued, but eventually Maurice surrendered -- and at school I learned that my washing machine mishap was mild compared to what my friends were going through with their Grow-a-Frogs. (Yes, my mom had unwittingly started a trend.)
One friend had had her house wallpapered and noticed a bulge in the wall, and when she realized her frog was missing, it was clear where he had gone. Another decided to get a second frog as a companion for the first: One day she came home to find one frog missing and one slightly fatter. One by one, my friend's frogs faltered, yet Maurice continued to live and grow peacefully in our kitchen.
I took care of him right up until the day I left for college. I figured dorm living was challenging enough without introducing a new roommate to my slightly slimy companion, so Maurice stayed behind in Michigan with my parents. But they traveled a lot. While other families had dog walkers, we employed a frog feeder.
Over the years, friends and family started to buy me frog paraphernalia. I got birthday cards with messages like "Hoppy Birthday," and "Hope this year is ribbeting," and "Have a toadally great year." (Some people sadly don't know the difference between a frog and a toad.)
I've collected picture frames with frogs, figurines, and notepads. The guys I've dated over the years have gotten me various stuffed frogs -- but none compare to the Valentine's Day gift my current boyfriend gave me: a frog that sings "My Girl." And I can't tell you how many times I've gotten teased about kissing my frog and him turning into a prince. Every once in a while people will talk about their pets, and I have to chuckle as I admit that I have -- and still have -- a pet frog.
In fact, last week, Maurice turned 21, so I decided it was time, as an adult, for him to have his own Facebook fan page. He currently has 55 fans. When people found out that he is still "kicking," old friends flocked to write on his wall.
"You're legal," wrote one.
"Let's go bar hopping," said another.
"Time to move out of the parents' house and into a bachelor pad," quipped a third.
People in my family often joke about how maybe Maurice really is my grandpa reincarnated. I never argue. After all, who says there's anything wrong with a little magical thinking?
Jennifer Raznick was an associate editor for Atlanta's Jezebel magazine and has written restaurant reviews for Charlotte's Elevate Lifestyle and Citiology.com. She loves yoga, dining out, wine tasting and Maurice (whom she's never kissed). No, not even after too much wine.