I didn’t know my grandma sold Christmas trees from the back of her Minnesota diner until I read it in her obituary. I suppose there was a lot I didn’t know about Dorothy May McCorkell. I knew she was a pack rat. I knew she was a chain smoker. I knew she felt young in her denim cowboy boots. And I thought I knew she liked frogs. In honor of my grandmother’s passing this week, here is a story I wrote just days before her death.
The Unintentional Frog Collection
By Alison Storm
One in three people say they feel stressed out during the holidays, according to Gallup. My theory is that the Christmas stress comes from finding the perfect gift. There’s a lot of pressure in gift giving. Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they return it? Will they treasure it? You see, being a good gift giver says a lot about you as a person. It says that you listen well, are thoughtful, understanding, and caring.
Think about when you get a really great gift—it makes you feel good, right? Now think about when you get a gift that makes no sense. Not only do you have to fake liking it, but you have a resonating feeling of how little this person actually knows you. Shouldn’t your mom know what size sweater you wear? Shouldn’t your grandma know that you are allergic to wool? Shouldn’t your granddaughter know you hate frogs?
Yes, she should.
In my defense my grandmother and I have never lived in the same town. Miles always separated us. I’m sorry to say months have passed without any communication between us. But I always felt Christmas was my chance to shine. It was my opportunity to be a good granddaughter—my chance to show how thoughtful, understanding and caring I was.
Years ago my sister and I discussed what to get Grandma for Christmas. My recollection tells me it was my sister’s suggestion to add to Grandma’s frog collection. So frogs became our annual holiday gift theme. Frog socks, frog figurines, frog candles, frog pajamas, frog mugs, frog slippers, frog pens—if this woman liked frogs than darn-it, she would be surrounded by them 24-7.
December after December my sister and I would pack up a big box of presents to ship off to my grandmother’s nursing home. We imagined her opening it, being the envy of all of the other residents at Pleasant Manor in small-town Minnesota.
“Oh, did you see Dorothy’s big Christmas package?”
“Her granddaughters are the sweetest!”
“She has the best frog collection I’ve ever seen!”
Years passed. The frog collection grew. And finally I began to wonder.
“Do you think Grandma ever gets sick of getting this frog stuff every year?” I asked my sister.
“I don’t know. You said she really loves frogs,” my sister said.
“No,” I answered. “You said she really loves frogs.”
“No, you did.” She replied.
Where did this love of frogs originate? I swore it was my sister’s discovery and she swore it was mine. Surely we didn’t invent Grandma’s passion for amphibians. But at this point we were too ashamed to ask. So that year the frog collection froze, never to be expanded again—at least not by us. Instead, Grandma got something else green: money.