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The Perfect Gift

 

     Christmas was only a few days off and Sean wanted the most perfect gift to give his mother this year.  You see, he wasn’t certain if this would be the last Christmas he would spend with her, as she had spent the majority of the past year battling cancer.

     She had been fighting hard, and Sean understood his mother was tired. Although he hated to see her have to fight for something that should be as simple as living, he was not ready to let her go. He would fight with her to live…to stay with him.

     Sean sat on the ground beside the pond in his backyard with his head hung low, as he tried to think of what the perfect gift to give his mother would be. This was his favorite place to sit and think about the troubles of the world…well, at least the world according to Sean. As he was deep in his contemplations, a big bullfrog came up in front of him. Sean re-focused to take in the frog. The frog looked at him and opened his mouth; but instead of the deep loud croak Sean was expecting, he heard words.

     “What is it that disturbs you, child?”

     Sean blinked as he hesitantly asked, “Did you just speak to me?”

     “Do you see anyone else around?”

     “Well, no! But frogs don’t talk.”

     “Who said? I believe I’m talking to you...do you?”

    “Ah, yeah…at least…I think so.” Sean was blinking and thinking in the back of his young mind he must have gone insane at some point today.

     “That’s all that’s important at the moment then. But you haven’t answered my question.”

     Sean cleared his throat. “Oh, sorry. My mother is fighting cancer and I just want to get her the most perfect gift I can for Christmas, but I don’t have much money and I can’t think of what the perfect gift would be. She always says she has everything she needs, but there must be something extra special I can get her this year, so she knows how much I love her.”

     The bullfrog jumped onto Sean’s knee. “Do you think she knows now that you love her?”

     “Oh, I hope so!”

     “How do you let her know?”

     “I just tell her," Sean said, shrugging lightly, "hug her and give her kisses.”

     “And yet you think you have to do more? Give her more?”

     “Yes, I want something special no one else will give her.”

     “Ah, I see. Well my young friend, personally I feel you could give it to her right now but you seem to think it's at the other end of a search---so on a search we shall go. Come.”

     Sean dutifully followed, still convinced he had lost his marbles now that a talking frog had come into his life.

     They began by going in the woods on the edge of the property. Sean was so captured by the thought of finding the perfect gift for his failing mother; he forgot to tell anyone where he was going. More to the point, he had no idea where he was going.

     “Mr. Frog, how long will I be gone?”

     “That depends entirely on you, my boy.”

     Sean was getting sick of not getting straight answers from this frog who obviously knew it all.

***

     Going through these woods reminded Sean of so many times over the years when he and his mother trekked through here. They would go for long, exciting walks...noticing everything and researching when they returned home those things they knew nothing about. Sean wondered what his mother might say about a talking frog. He was afraid she would have him committed.

     They tramped through the woods and over logs, across streams and around brush. It didn’t seem to Sean they were searching for anything, so there must be a specific destination they were going to. This was quite exciting to a boy Sean’s age.

     He had been raised to know a good berry from a poisonous one. As they walked and came across good berries, Sean filled his pockets and ate. He knew he had missed lunch already, and there was no telling if he would be home in time for dinner. Following this frog deeper into the forest than he had ever been, he wondered if he would see home again at all!

     Eventually, they emerged from the woods onto a wide meadow. On the far side was a huge, thunderous waterfall. Sean was so focused on the cascading water, he wasn’t paying attention to where he was walking. Suddenly a massive amount of bugs were swarming all over and around him. He was trying to shield his face and head with his arms but it seemed to do no good. They were pricking him all over. He turned and ran but he couldn’t outrun them! They stayed right up with him and kept attacking.

     When he got to the base of the waterfall he got in the cool water and submerged himself to get away from whatever those were. At least that got them away from him, but he was going to have to come up for some air. When he could hold his breath no longer, he pushed his face to the surface, sucking in a long, deep, satisfying breath and looked around. There, hovering before his eyes were dozens of tiny two inch---

     What were they? Were they bugs?

     Creatures...things! Something! They looked like tiny people with wings, each one holding a tiny spear. They were so aggressive.

     “What do you want from me? Why would you try to hurt me?”

     There was a buzz in the air that got much louder after he questioned them. The bullfrog swam up closer to Sean.

“Can you understand them?” he asked. Sean shook his head. So the frog acted as an interpreter. “They are mad because you stepped all over them in the field.”

     “I didn’t step on them! They attacked me for no good reason. I was minding my own business.”

     “They said you paid no attention to where you were walking and kicked and stepped all over them.”

     “I never saw them!”

     “They said if you are not going to pay attention in the moment you are in, you deserve their anger.” The frog chuckled.

     “What?” Sean queried with indignation, “That makes no sense!”

     “Of course it does! The queen says, those who walk around in their own little world will miss many blessings and walk themselves right into traps, but it is their own doing, so therefore, you deserve it.”

     Sean opened his mouth to spit something back, but instead closed it and thought for a moment. He supposed she did have a point. He did not see them because he was too focused on what was ahead, instead of paying attention to where he was or how he could possibly be hurting anything else.

     “She is right,” Sean said humbly, “I wasn't paying attention, and I should have been.”

     “She also said," the wisdom-filled frog continued, "you must live in the moment; appreciate everything and everyone around you at that moment. Then you will live with no regrets. She wants to know if you understand that now.”

     “Yes, I think I do. I am sorry." Sean's mind was a whirl-wind of confusion and at that moment, also focused on being simply wet. "I'll pay more attention In the future.”

     He watched as the small creatures slowly retreated and left him alone with the bullfrog. Sean slowly got out of the water, now paying attention to everywhere he stepped. Sean was squishing in his water logged sneakers and dripping as he walked, “I can’t believe those evil little things chased me into the water, like that.” He was now a bit indignant again.

     “Begging your pardon, but you are the one who disrupted them first. I don’t think you should be blaming them for not paying attention to your surroundings.”

     “I just need to get back on track. Christmas is so close now and the rate I’m going, I’ll never find the perfect gift for my mother.”

     “I think you’re trying too hard,” the bullfrog said, not unkindly.

     Sean thought a moment, regretting he wore socks today. “I've spent half a day getting here---and I still need to find the perfect gift and get back home before Christmas!”

     “Relax...you’ll be fine I’m sure.”

     “No!" Now Sean was getting angry again. "You don’t understand! My mother is very sick and I probably won’t have her with me this time next year. I just want her to have the best of everything. That includes the most perfect Christmas present I can give her! I only wanted---” Here he paused, stopping and angrily wiped the tears out of his eyes.

      'Big boys don't cry.' His mother told him this numerous times as he watched her in the hospital bed with all those tubes running in and out of her, and she was so strong...so strong.

     Sean stopped himself and swallowed what could only be described as a frog in his own throat and actually smiled a moment, looking down at his strange, new friend.

   The bullfrog was looking up. “Don’t you think you should be at home with her right now?”

     “No," Sean sighed, "I can’t. I have to find her the best Christmas present I can give her this year. I thought you were supposed to be helping me find it,” he added, eyeing the amphibian.

     “No, I said I know what it is and where to find it. You are the one who wanted to go on this journey.”

     “Seriously? Uggh! You’re worthless! You said you would help!

“Hey," the frog said, and shrugged his froggy shoulders, "I’m a talking frog over here. Who wouldn’t want that? And if I recall," here he lifted a froggy finger and waggled it at the boy, "I just translated a language you don’t speak to get you out of that bind back there.”

***

     Sean stopped talking and just walked.  The more he thought about how he didn’t seem any closer to finding whatever this Christmas gift was and now was running out of time, the more he noticed his palms getting sweaty, his heart racing and his breathing becoming quicker and labored. What was happening to him?

     Sean came to a mountainous wall at the edge of the open meadow.  He looked up the side and couldn’t imagine having to climb that without gear or at least a rope. Adding to everything else, he felt he could now add frustration.  Wonderful.

     “Now what do I do?”

     “Look for the solution,” the frog replied.

     “You are of no help.”

     Sean grunted and started up along the front of the rock face and ran into a mouth that was a cave. He pushed the brush aside, fascinated now. He was fumbling along in the dark with no idea where he was going, or where this would take him. He just felt he should go through this way. He was feeling his way along the walls which were wet with condensation and perhaps millions of years of rock-life. At places he had to duck due to the encroachment of the low hanging ceiling---other times he felt the space open up, but since it was dark as pitch in there he had no idea to what extent, only that he knew it was incredibly high; fantastically huge!

     Sean could not focus on much more than getting through this to get home to his mother before Christmas. The more he did the more labored his breathing became, the faster his heart raced, the sweatier his palms became, and the more flushed his cheeks felt.

     Sean became aware he was lying down, his eyes were closed and he heard whispered voices around him.

     “He’s coming around,.” he heard from a male voice and forced his eyes to open. It took a moment for them to focus, and when they did, he believed he was dreaming. There were little people, not children but people small in stature surrounding the bed on which he lay. They had large heads, big noses, wide eyes, and pointed ears.  They were dressed in red and green velour clothing with small hats atop their heads.

     Staying ever so still, Sean moved only his eyes to sweep the faces from his left to his right.

     “Who are you?” Sean inquired slowly.

     “Maybe you should lie back down,” one of the men said calmly. “You took a pretty good fall and hit your head.”  

     Ah, Sean thought, that was it. He was asleep and dreaming from a head trauma.

     “Can I get you something?” a woman to his left asked him.

     “Sure,” Sean said, figuring he was asleep, “Bring me the perfect gift for Christmas and I’ll be on my way.”

     “I do not understand,” said the original man.

     “I’m out here looking for the perfect gift for my mother for Christmas.  She’s very sick. If I’m asleep and this is a dream, it doesn’t hurt for me to ask. Who knows, you may even give me the directions to get through with this quicker,” he said flippantly.

     “I do not believe you understand. You were in the caves, we heard you talking to yourself saying something about not getting back in time and then you dropped like dead weight, face first onto the floor; out cold. You have been asleep for four hours.”

     Sean jumped up while saying, “Oh no!” Once he was fully verticalm he felt his head swim and he quickly sat back down on the bed. “Oh my head…”

     “Yeah, I would not make any quick movements. You have a concussion.”

     “I’m never going to be able to find the perfect present for my mother and be home by Christmas, and now you tell me I’ve been unconscious for four hours?”

     “Sit for just a minute, let’s talk about this. Maybe we can help you find this perfect gift you’re looking for.”

     “Oh, do you think you could? That’d be great!”

     “We are happy to try. Now, tell me what this gift is you are looking for.”

     “I don’t know.”

     “What do you mean you don’t know? What are you doing out here looking for something you have no idea what it is?”

     “There’s this talking frog, you see…” Sean hesitated, waiting for the push back from these people but it never came.

     The man who appeared to be the leader just nodded his head that he was tracking with him. So, Sean continued, “Anyway, I explained I wanted to give her the best gift I could since it didn’t look like she’d be here with us next year. The frog said he knew what it was.  Instead of just telling me what it is, he has me out here on this wild goose chase.”

     “Let me get this straight,” the man said. “You are out here looking for something but you have no idea what it is and the frog gave you no hints?”

     “Yes, that’s right. Now you see my problem? On top of that, I’m running out of time. What if Christmas comes and I haven’t found this gift for my mom?”

     “How about you tell us what you believe this perfect present is. What would make it perfect in your mind?”

     “Well…” Sean started while becoming lost in thought. “It must be something extra special, something no one else will get her, and it must be something so she knows how much I love her.”

     “Ah…that gift…yes, it truly is the perfect gift.”

     “Where do I find it? Can you help me then?”

     “No, I am sorry son, this one you have to discover on your own.”

     “Great…just great! You hold me up here making me think you are going to help me find this thing the frog was saying I could get her; instead you just wasted more of my valuable time. I’m never going to get back to her in time.  I’m going to end up back there empty handed.”

     As Sean was speaking these words, he began to hyperventilate. The leader guided him to the edge of the bed, sat him down, lowered his head between his knees and calmly said, “Slow, deep breaths now.”

     Sean eventually began to regain a normal breathing pattern and sat up straight.

     “I don’t understand what keeps happening to me. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before.”

     “What is your rush?”

     “What’s my rush? Are you kidding? I’m running out of time, I’m no better off now than when I left with that stupid frog yesterday and you’re asking me what’s my rush? Christmas is almost here.”

     “I understand, son…”

     Sean adamantly cut him off, “I’m not your son. My name is Sean.”

     “I beg your pardon, Sean, it does not behoove you to run off half cocked without thinking a moment about what it is you might be looking for, does it?

     “You are not hearing me; I am almost out of time. I certainly don’t have time to just sit around here with you who won’t help me, either.” Sean stood ready to bolt for a door. Since he wasn’t conscious when he came in, he had no idea which way to go.

     Sean turned back to his…captors…saviors…he wasn’t really sure if they were friend or foe. What he did know is they were holding him up from his mission.

     “Can you tell me which way to go?” He asked.

     “That depends on where it is you want to go,” one of the women responded.

     “At this point, I just want to go home. Can you tell me how to go home?”

     “Of course; are you going to go home without knowing what to give your mother for Christmas?”

     “I’m going to have to, I’m out of time and I still have nothing to give her.”

     “Have you bothered to look inside yourself for the answer to what your gift should be?”

     “That isn’t where I’m going to find it.”

     “And you know this how…?”

   “ I don’t have the perfect gift; I’m looking for the perfect gift. Now I’m out of time, so I’ve lost all this time with my mother on a wild goose chase for something I’m not any closer to getting then when I first left home. I’m so frustrated.”

     Sean noticed the more he thought about the fact that he was not going to make it back to his home in time for Christmas with the perfect gift for his mother, his heart rate and breathing was again increasing and he seemed to be breaking out in a sweat. What was happening to him?

     Sean sat back down and simply assumed the position. He put his head between his knees and began taking deep breaths. After a bit, one of the men came and sat beside him. “Do you understand what’s happening to you?” he asked.

   Sean looked into the man’s eyes and slowly shook his head. “I have no idea.”

     “If you look at what you have thought every time this has happened to you, can you think of commonalities?”

     “No. The one time I was in the cave and every other time I was here.”

     “Do you recall what you were thinking each time just before this happened?” the girl elf asked.

     Sean sat still, fully concentrating now; sure he was missing something and determined to figure it out. He turned to the girl elf and said, “I was thinking about getting back to my mother and how I was running out of time.”

     “That you were. What you were really doing is worrying about the future instead of living in the present moment.”

    “But what if I don’t get home in time for Christmas?”

     “What if you don’t? Will your worry make it happen any faster?”

     “No. But…”

     She interrupted him, “But isn’t the answer. You living in the present and thinking with a clearer head is.”
            “You’re right. But I still can’t go home because I haven’t found the gift I was in search of but Christmas is on us.”

     “It seems to me you have a choice. You can keep searching for this present you don’t even know what it is or you could focus on getting home to be with your family by Christmas. Which do you choose?”

     Sean hated that these were his only choices but he must make the rational one and head home. “I’m going home.”

     “That’s the choice I would make.” She gave him a hug and showed him to the exit.

***

     Sean kept mulling over the fact he had been out here instead of at home with his family, particularly his mother, since he was obviously going home empty handed.

     The more he thought about it the madder he was getting. Then he began to remember past Christmas’ and all the fun they had had. There were times when he wished he had siblings but others when he realized he enjoyed being the center of attention.

     As he walked heading toward home he became lost in memories. The more fun times he remembered the sadder he became. Soon he would no longer have his mother with him to make more memories with. Eventually, he was just dragging his feet and near tears. His shoulders had become slumped, his head was down and he was overcome with sadness.

     The bullfrog hopped up beside him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why so glum, chum?”

     “It’s not going to be long before my mother is gone. I won’t have new memories to make with her. I am going to miss her so much.”

     “But you have her with you now. Can you not focus on the time you have with her for the time being?”

     “I guess but I’m so young and have so many years ahead that I want her with me to experience them.”

     “Look friend, you have no way of knowing when you are going to be separated from the ones you love. You know your mother is not going to live a lot longer. However, you never know who might pass before her.”

     Sean stopped, startled at what the frog just said, “What? What do you mean?”

     “What I mean is there are accidents that happen every day. One moment those we love are with us, the next they are gone.”

     “I never thought of that. You’re right. Oh my, I have to get home, what if something happens to my father?”

     “That was not why I told you that. I told you so you would stop taking your moments for granted.”

     Sean had no idea what the frog was rambling about now. He was now so focused on all the times he had spent with his dad and how he had never told him how much he treasured those times.

     Again Sean felt himself sliding into despair. He was so focused on his memories and how sad he felt, he never saw the two ugly looking creatures blocking his way until he practically bumped into them.

     “Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t see you there,” Sean said in earnest.

     “Sure you didn’t,” one of them said.

     “I was so concerned with getting home to my family by Christmas, I wasn’t really paying attention to anything around me.”

     “Oh, hear this Frank? He’s calling us things.”

     “I heard him Earl. I wonder how he would like being called a thing?

     “No,” Sean tried to interject, “I…I didn’t mean to call you things. I…I was just…oh I don’t know what I was…” With that Sean sank to the ground.

     “What is so bad for you?” Frank asked. “It’s not like you have to live out your life as a troll, like we do.

     “You’re real trolls?” Sean asked in awe.

     “Yeah, like that’s such a good thing,” Earl responded.

     “I think that’s cool. I’ve never seen a troll before. I’ve heard of trolls but never met one in person,” Sean answered.

     “Well, you keep living in the doldrums and you, too, can be just like us,” said Frank.

     “What do you mean?”

     “We were not born trolls. We became trolls by always being down and out. Eventually, we couldn’t think good thoughts anymore. The more time passed, the uglier we became physically. Now, this is all we know. Keep it up kid and you can be like we are.”

     Sean thought about that a moment. He knew that was not what he wanted but he didn’t know how to not feel like this anymore. He couldn’t even seem to lift himself from the ground.

     “Come now, Sean,” said the bullfrog. “We need to get you home by Christmas.”

     “I just can’t Mr. Bullfrog. I don’t have the energy to get up from this spot.”

     “Boy, there are a lot of times we must just do it till we feel it. This is one of those times. So, just force yourself up and simply put one foot in front of the other.”

     Sean got up and did as the bullfrog said. He was just walking, not talking, and trying not to think much. The thinking seemed to get him into trouble.

     As they walked, the frog was trying to point out different things along their journey. There were all sorts of beautiful and interesting things in nature.

     Sean was working hard on focusing on the things the frog pointed out. It wasn’t long before he was actually looking for things that were new and different. With his focus off himself, the past or his worries, Sean noticed he actually had pep in his step.  When had this happened?

     Sean began to whistle as he walked. Then he began to swing his arms and realized he had more joy then he had felt since his mother took ill. He was looking forward to being back home with her but had a renewed confidence that all would be ok. He had no idea what the future held but he knew he loved his mother and just wanted to spend as much time as he could with her for now.

     Sean had been so wrapped up in seeing everything around him and thinking happy thoughts that he hadn’t realized he was now crossing his back yard. He was so excited to be home, he ran through his yard and in the back door.

     Sean ran into the living room to find two very worried parents and a police officer. He stopped dead in his tracks. “Is something wrong?” he asked cautiously.

     His father took a few long strides and was across the room, lifting Sean into his big arms. “Where have you been? We have been worried sick about you.”

     His mother now joined her husband and wrapped her arms around her son. “I was so afraid someone had taken you. Where have you been?”

     “I’m so sorry. I was out searching for the perfect Christmas present for you, mom.”

     “And did you find it?” his mother asked.

     Sean lowered his head and his voice and said, “I tried but no, I didn’t find it.”

     “Sean, sweetheart, do you know what I consider to be my perfect gift?”

     He sadly shook his head that he did not.

     “It’s you, darling. You are my perfect gift. There is nothing more perfect to me than you. All I want this Christmas is as much time with you and your father as I can get.”

     “Oh no, I have wasted all this time out there looking for something special for you and haven’t given you want you wanted most; time with Dad and me. I’m so sorry, Mom.”

     “It’s ok, darling; you’re here now, safe and sound. That’s all that is important.”

     The police officer said, “I sure am glad nothing bad happened and I’ll leave all of you to it. Merry Christmas!” And he walked out the door.

***

     Sean excused himself and went back out the rear door. There outside sat the big bullfrog.

     “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you in the beginning. I thought all presents were wrapped in paper and ribbon. You did tell me I had it but I wouldn’t listen.”

     “Why would you?” asked the frog. “Who ever heard of a talking frog.”

     The two chuckled.

     “Merry Christmas, Mr. Bullfrog.”

     “Merry Christmas, Sean. Remember to live every moment in the moment you are in. Then you will not miss those around you. You will not live in anxiety from fear of a future not yet here. And you will not lead yourself into depression by living in the past.”

     “It took a journey to discover all that, but I get it now and will never forget it. I’m going to go live this present moment with the parents I love so much. I’ll keep my eyes open for you in the future but if I never see you again, thanks for the lessons learned.”

     The bullfrog hopped off while Sean walked back in the house to appreciate his every moment of life.

The End