I remember the first time I really understood what it means to die.
I was about six years old. My father was taking my brother deer hunting for the first time. He was not old enough to shoot yet, but the men would take the kids with them early to get them familiar with their surroundings. It is something they had been doing for generations.
Being the only girl with three brothers, and right in the middle in age, I was one of the very few girls allowed to go to target practice and learn to shoot a bow. I would put up such a fight when my dad would try to go with the boys and leave me behind. I didn’t understand the differences in the sexes then, I only understood that my father was punishing me for being a girl. I hated being different than my brothers. After much insistence on my part he finally just gave in and brought me along.
Eventually hunting season came. The men were gearing up for a long weekend camping and hunting trip. My brother was given his very own bow. My mom bought him a new orange hunting jacket and cap. I asked her where mine was.
“Honey, this trip is only for the boys.” She explained
“But it isn’t fair!” I cried, “I’ve gone to practice too!”
“That is just how it is.” She said as she tried to comfort me,”Boys go hunting, girls don’t.”
I wanted none of it and I ran outside and hid behind the chicken coop.
I decided I was never going to speak to my father again. He loved the boys more. I couldn’t understand why they got to be boys and I had to be born this alien thing.
Why was I different?
I wasn’t allowed to play baseball, or soccer. I got dolls and not trucks for Christmas, so the boys wouldn’t play with me, and now I had to stay at home while my brothers got to go away for a whole weekend to a place as wonderful as only a young mind being denied something they desire, could cook up.
My father came out looking for me. He knew where I would be. I always hid out there when I was angry with them.
“I’m sorry you can’t go. You would not like it.” He said, “You couldn’t kill a deer. You would get really sad. Girls are sensitive that way baby.”
“I would! I swear!” I cried to him, “Please let me go! I swear I would be good, I could do it!”
“No Toad, I’m sorry.” He said (He nicknamed me Toad because he said when I was a baby my eyes were so big and green that I looked like a little frog)
“I hate you!” I said, “I won’t ever talk to you again!”
“Yes you will.” He laughed, and then he gave me a hug and kissed my head, “Be good for your mom Toad.” and then he got up and left.
I sat behind the chicken coop and waited until after I heard the car drive away.
I could be tough. I could! And I was going to show him! I was so angry. I was so furious that I was different and that meant I had to miss out on all of the fun stuff.
“How hard could it be to kill a stupid deer anyhow?” I thought to myself. “It could not be so hard.”
I went to the house and went to the back where we kept a little aquarium.
I had caught a huge bullfrog earlier in the season and he had been happily living in my aquarium. I loved him. I was so proud that I caught the biggest frog that year. I used to catch him bugs and feed him so much that my mom would say he was going to outgrow the aquarium.
I took my frog carefully out of his home and I cradled him in my hands so he would not escape. I brought him outside. I sat down in the driveway.
I looked at my frog. I examined his soft delicate looking skin, his different colors, and his little frog eyes.
I thought about my dad and my uncles and my brothers and my cousins all on their big camping trip. I thought about how I was a girl so I didn’t get to go because girls couldn’t handle it.
"I could handle it! I could be tough!" I thought to myself. It is just a stupid deer!
I put my frog on the ground and stood up next to him.
He didn’t move. He just sort of sat there like fat frogs do.
Without thinking, I lifted my foot and I stomped down hard on my frog.
“See! I can do it!” I thought to myself.
I felt a moment of victory. I felt like I could do anything, and they were wrong. They were all wrong! I killed my frog, and I didn’t hesitate for a second. I was tough unlike girls were supposed to be!
That is when it hit me.
I slowly lifted my foot and squatted down next to my now flattened frog. His body was all squished and misshapen. I poked him with my finger, as if he was suddenly going to resurrect now that I had proved my point.
“I killed my frog! My frog is dead! I can’t make him alive again!” That is when it became clear to me, what dead really meant.
I sat there in the driveway holding my now dead frog in my hand wishing I could take it back, wishing I could fix my frog, sobbing, hurting. The guilt was overwhelming, crying uncontrollably now. I wanted to fix him, but I knew I couldn’t.
Toad had killed her frog. Toad was a girl. Frog was dead.