Detroit Lake is a man made lake nestled near the top of the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon. In addition to a sparkling water supply for the populated cities down the mountain to the west, the reservoir is a prime destination for fishermen and water sports enthusiasts.
Larry and Liz Eager own and operate The Sweet Tooth pastry shop, that sits along State Route 22 where the North Santiam River flows into the lake. The family lives in a sizable apartment behind the shop. The fast-paced Eager children, Glen and Jen, have grown bored with the chores that go with being the off-spring of pastry bakers and except for éclairs, they hated pastries of every description. They knew with the Christmas holidays approaching, their tedious workload will demand even more and more of their leisure time.
At noon one cold December day, Liz swatted Glen’s hand as he attempted to snatch an extra éclair. She reminded him that he mustn’t eat the Sweet Tooth’s profits and that too much sugar was not good for him.
“What about the people who buy our stuff?” Glen asked, “It’s not good for them either, is it?”
“Depends on how much they eat, doesn’t it?” Liz said grinning. “And with Christmas coming, let’s hope it’s a lot. By the way, there’s a big load of flour, sugars coming in this afternoon. I need you to come put it away after school. Okay?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Glen said picking up a shard of chocolate lying near the mixing bowl and plopping it into his mouth. “But Max Blair and I were going to the creek to chase frogs. Can’t I do it after that?”
“It’s too cold even for frogs, isn’t it? Aren’t they hibernating?”
“Not all…” Glen answered.
“Well, get it done before dinner… that’s all,” Mother said washing her hands in the big stainless steel sink.
Glen nodded, grabbed his backpack and headed out of the kitchen and past the counters toward the front door. Jen, who had been helping her father serve customers snatched up her coat and joined her brother. The bell hanging from the door jangled twice as the twins opened and closed it.
Bo and Jill Frog live in the dense woods near Surprise Lake, which is nestled in the woods about ten miles east of Detroit Lake along Breittenbush state road. They are just two of the billions of Pacific Tree Frogs populating habitat that stretches from the forests of California to Canada and inland to Nevada and Montana. The little frog’s streamlined pale green bodies have a distinctive black streak that run from their nose across their eyes and along their sides ending at their muscular thighs poised ready to jump. Popped up eyes dominate their heads and tiny bumps carpet their skin from head to toe. Each of the three fingers on all four legs has suction cups designed for easy clinging to about anything.
Most of the year Bo and Jill spend part of each day eating beetles, flies, spiders, ants and other non-vertebrates. Finding dinner is a sport for them. Flies are the trickiest prey to catch. Jill observed, that when flies take flight from a resting position they always jump straight up before flying away. She found that if she anticipated it by opening her mouth and leaping into the air just above the fly, she could usually catch it. Bo’s system for catching his food was more certain. He would lie still until a fly or beetle came within range of his long sticky tongue – and ZAP – the bug was his.
Frogs like to sing, especially boy frogs. In February, they gather in pools of shallow water and sing concerts to the girl frogs lingering in the foliage nearby. By spring and summer, it is hard to get any sleep with all the full-throated crooking coming from the competing singers.
Other than eating, sleeping, waiting and hibernating, frogs don’t do much except maybe play leap-frog, kick the seed pod and compete in leaping, longest tongue and camouflage contests.
Most of their time and energy is spent avoiding the jaws of raccoons, foxes, coyotes, river otters, skunks, snakes, hawks, and owls. Jill is an expert at making herself look like a part of a maple leaf resting on the creek bed just beneath the surface of the flowing stream. However, Bo, who is about as quick as a frog could be, leaps into the water and swims away at the slightest sign of danger.
During the fall, frogs pad their bodies with as much fat as they can absorb to protect them against the freezing winter cold and to provide nourishment for the long winter. Bo consumed forty flies, ten beetles, two spiders and a colony of ants for his final meal before climbing into his hibernating nest. Though Jill could never eat as much, she was still confident her layers of fat would keep her alive through the long winter.
At least during winter, while they hibernated in secluded pockets among the thick branches of fir and pine, the two frogs and their friends did not have to fear predators. This December, like all Decembers, Bo and Jill were safely asleep in their secluded chamber as snowstorms and driving rains covered the Santiam region of the Cascades.
Christmas is a private time for the community of Detroit, Oregon. Fisherman and other tourist don’t often drive into the snow- covered mountains and ski enthusiasts passing by on their way to Hoodoo don’t dwell for long in the little town.
No, at Christmastime the 300 residents turn inward to nurture one another. This year most Detroit Lake families decorated their homes with manger scenes, snowmen, nut-crackers and glittering arrays of bright colored lights. Other families contributed to the festive and help decorate city hall and the tall fir tree just off the main parking lot.
Bill Plant, put a large Santa Claus at the base of the Cedar’s Restaurant sign standing at the extremity of his parking lot just off State Route 22. Periodically a light comes on inside the jolly man giving him a charming, incandescent glow before returning to the familiar red jacketed, white bearded icon.
Inside the restaurant, Bill constructed a miniature village with a model train running all the way around. The tiny village contains every description of quaint dwellings reminding patrons of a nostalgic era from a remote past.
Part of the fun of eating at the Cedar’s is to look across the curved bridge that takes patrons up and over a barbershop, haberdashery, millinery, some cozy cottages and the noisy, persistent train which made a tooting sound every time the door opened and closed.
“How does the train know when to blow?” Charley Sims asked his dad.
“It just knows,” Fred Sims answered.
“Awe Dad, a train can’t know, can it?” Charlie returned wanting to believe.
“See that red beam down there,” Fred said pointing to the laser trigger shining knee level across the entryway. “That’s the train’s eye. That’s how it knows.”
“Really!” Charlie exclaimed inserting his leg across the beam making the train whistle toot without the door opening. “Awe, I get it. It’s a switch, isn’t it?”
“It might be… but the train knowing is more fun, don’t you think?”
Charlie didn’t say anything. He followed his dad to a booth next to the window on which a winter scene was painted. Charlie could see a cottage sitting close to the train track and during lunch he thought about all the people who lived in Bill Plant’s miniature village.
“Probably where Tiny Tim lives,” he thought taking a drink of orange juice. Charlie liked his town at Christmas time. He didn’t know where all the holiday symbols came from but they warmed his soul and, of course, he liked getting up Christmas morning to find what Santa Claus had brought him.
All the boats sitting on the waterless lakebed, made Sal Mesa’s boat marina looked like a graveyard. In winter Detroit Lake is drained to make room for the spring snowmelt that suddenly flow down the mountains when warm days of spring arrive. Nevertheless, Sal did his best to give the boats life and reflect the holiday spirit. Blinking colored lights hung on the lash lines and masts of the boats sitting near the docks.
As always, Hallberg’s grocery store smelled inviting at Christmas time. The aroma of spices and scent of holiday foods greeted shoppers. Willard Hallberg went out of his way to make his establishment part of the holiday spirit. Along the wall near the entrance, he erected a manger scene with realistic looking animals and the best dressed Mary and Joseph you ever saw. An extended overhang protected the crèche from snow and rain. Glen Eager secretly wanted to pet the lamb lying closest to Mary, but resisted thinking people would think he was silly. He was surprised one day when Jen knelt down and stroked the lifeless figure. He admired his sister for overcoming her fear of looking ridiculous. He knelt beside her and touched the fir.
“It’s like almost real, isn’t it?” Jen said.
“Yeah. How about Jesus… you want to touch Him … to pick Him up?” Glen asked.
“Oh no! That wouldn’t be right.” Jen said getting to her feet and stepping toward the sliding doors and on into the store.
Glen looked around to see if anyone else was watching. The coast was clear. He bent over the crib slipped his hands around the tiny doll and gingerly lifted it from the cradle, half expecting the voice of God to scold him or strike him with a bolt of lightening. He supported the baby’s head with his left hand, as he’d seem mothers do. He knew it was just a doll put in the cradle by Mrs. Hallberg, but it was a powerful symbol of beliefs and the act of picking it up and caressing it touched him in a way he did not expect. For a moment he felt like the baby belonged to him and, more surprisingly, he belonged to the baby.
His warmth was interrupted by someone approaching from the parking lot. It was the marina owner, Sal Mesa. Glen quickly put the baby back in the cradle, smoothed the swaddling clothes and moved toward the market door.
“Nice display,” Mesa said following Glen into the market, “I played Joseph, when I was your age.”
“Yeah,” Glen said meekly a bit ashamed that he’d been seen holding the baby. He was glad that it was Sal and not his friends.
On their way home the twins didn’t say anything to one another. Jen skipped happily a along the street thinking about what she would make her mother for Christmas. Glen thought about picking up the baby Jesus and the warm identification he felt, followed by the hot burn of shame. He knew that this would not be the last time he would be confronted by shame and wondered how he would handle it the next time. What he had heard at church taught him about how Jesus handled attempts to shame him and he thought that the shame he had just experienced was a cheap shame compared to the ridicule directed at real Jesus by multitudes of deniers.
Those thoughts popped from his mind with the clang of the happy bell of the Sweet Tooth’s door.
“Get you winter coats and boots on!” Larry Eager said as soon as the door closed.
“Where are we going?” Jen asked putting the jar of mayonnaise on the counter.
“It’s time to get a tree for the window,” dad said stroking the axe-head with a file.
“Can we go to the bridge up Breittenbush?” Glen asked.
“That where you want to go, Jen?” Larry asked expecting her to agree.
“Let’s try Surprise Lake this year.” Jen suggested, “It’s further away but it’s prettier there.”
“Let’s flip,” Larry said digging his pocket for a coin.
“I don’t care,” Glen said and added jokingly, “I like Surprise too.”
Within minutes the four Eagers had bundled into Larry’s extended-cab pickup and were traversing the snowy road east.
Ten miles out of town near the Santiam River, Larry parked the pickup off the road. In case a ranger should come by and want to see it, he placed his tree-cutting permit on the dashboard. The Eager family climbed out and began trudging through the woods looking for just the right tree to decorate and place in the Sweet Tooth’s front window.
“Over here!” Jen shouted pointing to a wonderfully shaped fir.
Larry tromped through the knee-high snow to inspect his daughter’s choice.
“I think it’s too tall … it would reach through the ceiling,” he said.
“Couldn’t we cut the bottom off and make it fit?” Jen asked hopefully.
“I guess we could… what do you think, Glen?” wanting consensus.
“There’s a shorter one over here,” Glen answered. “Wouldn’t have to cut it off.”
“I don’t care,” Jen answered, “It’s pretty too.”
“I like it!” Liz said anticipating her husband’s desire to bring the whole family into the decision.
“Then, this one it will be,” Larry said conclusively. “Which one wants to use the axe?” he asked holding out the handle.
“Let Glen do it,” Jen said cheerfully, “I don’t like to get pitch on my gloves.” Though she could easily do it, she knew it was a “manly” thing for Glen.
Glen crawled beneath the lower snow-laden branches of the tree. Each stroke shook snow off the prize. When it finally leaned over, there was no snow left on it … only thick, deep green branches.
Larry, Liz and Jen clapped and cheered when the tree went down. Glen and Jen picked it up and put it in the bed of the pickup. Then the family climbed into the truck and were soon on their way back to Detroit and the Sweet Tooth. They spent the rest of the afternoon setting up the tree in the window and decorating it.
All eleven years since the twins were born, Liz had added a new tree ornament for each of her children and it became a delight for citizens of Detroit to stop in front of the Sweet Tooth every Christmas to see what Liz had added.
The first year, Larry carved a pair of snowmen and Liz painted them and the next year they added and painted two pine cones to look like Santa Clauses.. After that, Liz began to add animals that might have been at the stable on that first Christmas. There were two cute mice, two camels, two cows, two donkeys, two sheep, two goats, two owls and two pigeons. But, this year, Liz couldn’t make up her mind what to add. She was stymied.
By now it had become a game among the residents to guess what would be next. Bart Davis jokingly suggested wart hogs and Paul Spinner brought by a couple of wooden turtles he’d bought at a craft store in Salem. Liz liked their looks but wasn’t yet ready to commit. Until she was, the pair would sit on the counter next to the cash register.
It was evening and the comfortable 71 degree temperature inside the Sweet Tooth was too warm for hibernating frogs to remain asleep. The Eager Family had gone to bed leaving their cozy pastry store lit only by the lights on their beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
Bo and Jill Frog began to awaken from their hibernating slumber. Expressing his confusion, Bo emitted a loud croak. It felt like spring to him, but he didn’t feel like he had slept any time at all. It was the same for Jill but she didn’t say anything. Girl frogs don’t talk much.
To compound their confusion, the light from the sun had never looked like the light that surrounded them. It was as if the stars that usually hung in the night sky, had dropped to earth. And the smells they were accustomed to in the woods were replaced with smells the two frogs had not smelled before.
“You awake?” Jill asked looking at Bo.
“Yeah, I think I’m awake but must be dreaming,” Bo answered.
“What happened… what do you think happened?” Jill asked nervously.
“I don’t know,” Bo replied struggling to limber up legs and arms that hadn’t moved for nearly two months.
He finally managed to crawl to the extremity of the branch on which he had been sleeping. He looked at his surroundings. The only light illuminating what they thought must be a cave in which the frog found themselves, were the stars twinkling from the branches around them. Strange shadowy shapes sat along the walls of the cave. Bo and Jill didn’t know what to call anything. The only thing that was familiar to them was the tree branch on which they perched. Nothing more.
By now, Jill had crawled to the end of her branch. “What are we going to do?” she asked.
“Keep out of sight is all I know, and try to figure out what is happening to us,” Bo croaked crawling over a camel and then a donkey and back into the seclusion offered by the thick branches of the fir. “This may be a coyote or otter trap. Let’s stay hidden.”
“Yeah, I don’t know what else,” Jill said, following Bo’s example. “At least we won’t go hungry… you see all that food?”
“I doesn’t look like bugs to me,” Bo said and asked, “How do you know it’s food?”
“Don’t you see the ants crawling down there,” Jill answered pointing toward the counter. “I like ants, don’t you?”
“Okay, there may be ants… but I don’t see any water and this tree is beginning to feel like a desert. You know what happens to our skin when we dry out?” Bo said moving his hind legs into a more comfortable position.
“Don’t you think it will rain or snow?”
“In this cave? I don’t see how.”
“There’s something coming,” Jen croaked quietly wiggling deeper into a thicket of fir needles. Bo followed.
Through an opening in the branches, the two frogs could see a gigantic figure come into the cave. It approached the tree, squatted down and began fumbling with strands of moss and a pair of long sticks.
“I’ve never seen one of those,” Glen whispered, looking at the gigantic figure. “Do you think it’s some kind of a bear?”
“Bears are covered with hair, aren’t they?” Jen said. “Maybe it’s a big… you know those things Grandpa Toad told us about.”
“Could be,” Bo said. “Didn’t he say they throw rocks at us? I don’t see any rocks, but let’s stay out of sight anyway.”
Jen was glad she was up before everyone else. She wanted to work on the present she was making for her parents. Ms. Perkins, her 6th grade teacher, had taught her to knit and she was making them each a scarf. She liked to knit sitting near the Christmas tree. She kept a canvas bag near so she could quickly hide the scarves when she heard sounds coming from elsewhere in the house.
The bakery store windows faced north. Jen could see the first sunrays catching the treetops on the mountain above Detroit Lake. She thought she heard a noise coming from the tree.
“That can’t be,” she thought. She didn’t see anything move nor hear anything more. She knitted another row on her mother’s colorful scarf. Minutes later she heard someone coming down the hall. She quickly shoved the knitting materials into the bag and hid it under the tree. She got up, stood near the tree pretending to adjust a lamb hanging from the extremity of a branch at eye level.
“Hi,” Glen said walking into the room. “What are you doing?”
“You scared me… I was working on mom’s scarf… don’t want her to see it,” Jen said putting the lamb back in it’s place and reaching for the bag. “Do you think elves really help the cobbler make shoes at night?”
“What?” Glen asked incredulously.
“The story of the elves helping the overworked cobbler. You know, they make shoes at night when he was sleeping?”
“That’s a silly… What made you think of that?”
“I heard something rustling in the tree a while ago,” Jen said.
Glen laughed, “And you think there are elves who are going to fill the shelves with goodies while we sleep?”
“Maybe not elves… a mouse, maybe?”
“Sure… or a donkey or a camels. You’re hearing things.” Glen concluded reaching in his pocket. “Your scarf looks great! When’d you learn to do that?”
“Ms. Perkins taught me,” Jen said.
Want to see the carving I’m making for Dad?” Glen asked showing Jen the piece of wood he’d taken from his pocket.
“Let’s see,” Jen said lowering her knitting to her lap and reaching out.
Glen handed her a maple letter opener with elegantly shaped blade and neatly etched swirls on the handle. “I’m making one for Mom too?”
“How about one for me?” Jen grinned.
“I might and I might not… it should be a surprise,” Glen said smiling at his sister.
Bo and Jill, trying to stay out of site near the trunk of the tree, were still confused. Little suns or stars and spring warmth had kept them from going back to sleep and now the big sun was brightening the recesses of the cave in which the two frogs found themselves. And, to further confuse matters, more bigs had come into the cave and they were all laughing and talking with one another speaking a strange language neither frog could understand. Bo couldn’t help emitting a loud croak.
The bigs in the room fell silent and looked at one another.
“Did you and Max Blair go frog hunting again?” Mother asked raising her eyebrows and looking at Glen.
“It wasn’t me,” Glen answered looking at Jen. “We went looking but didn’t find any.”
“I don’t like frogs, they’re slimy.” Jen said getting up and walking toward the tree, “It sounded like it was coming from here.”
She pointed to a camel.
“Camels don’t croak,” father said grabbing a flashlight and joining Jen at the tree. “I’ll bet it is a tree frog that was living in the tree when we cut it down and we brought him home… what’ll you bet?” he challenged shining the flashlight into the dark recesses of the branches.
Bo tried his best to escape the aim of the big’s searching eye but try as he may he couldn’t morph enough to hide from the light beam and the determined eyes of the two curious bigs. He and Jill looked “for all the world” like two frogs frozen in headlights. They couldn’t move.
By now, Glen and Liz had joined Jen and Larry at the tree.
“Look! There’s another one,” Jen said pointing at the second frog sitting still in the shapely fir’s upper branches near the trunk “Mom, aren’t they cute?”
“I’ll bet there are more,” Glen said excitedly.
“They are cute… but they have to go,” Liz said definitively. “Your dad and I will put them outside while you’re in school – speaking of which, you two are going to be late.”
“Awe, mom!” Glen protested, “They’re harmless toads. Look at them. They’re frightened.”
“We can’t have frogs around the pastry. Come on now. You two are going to be late for school.”
“It won’t hurt to let them stay. They’re too scared to leave the tree, don’t you think?” Jen said organizing her backpack.
“Letting them stay is probably not a good idea,” Larry said, “The tree will dry out… they need moisture to survive. It’s better that they go back in the woods. I’ll take care of them. You two get going…”
“Can’t Max and I take them to the lake after school?” Glen asked joining his sister at the door. “They can wait ‘til then, can’t they?”
“That will be good…” Liz relented, “I’ll watch the little critters until you get home until you get home to make sure they don’t jump into the batter,” and added with a laugh, “I can just see Mrs. Fritz’s face buying a croaking cinnamon roll.”
Bet she’d croak on it.” Glen Gushed, unable to resist the play on words. All laughed as the twins closed the door and headed for school.
After the searching light ceased to blind them, Jill and Bo lay still for a long time. After the two smaller bigs and one of the large bigs had left the cave, the remaining big moved from one place to another filling containers with what looked to the frogs like mud. Occasionally the big would approach the tree in what looked like an attempt to relocate them.
“What are we going to do?” Bo asked in a low voice moving from the frozen position he’d assumed when the light first hit.
“I don’t know!” Jill whispered. “Those monsters must be some kind of bears or something. Coyotes or wolves would have tried to eat us, wouldn’t they?”
“I guess … ‘cause they don’t look like otters or skunks,” Bo said.
“What are we going to do?” Jill asked repeating Bo’s question, “We’ve never known anything like this. I don’t see any puddles of water, or blue sky.” Jill continued looking around while tears began welling up in her eyes.
“Yeah… and where’s the grass and ferns… or the stream running down hill…?” Bo added sadly.
“What hill?” Jill asked, “We’re in a dry cave with gigantic monsters showering us with bright lights. If we stay here, our skin will dry out and we’ll….” She couldn’t finish.
Bo swallowed hard and managed to say, “Don’t think about it… they’ve gone for now… Come over here away from those hot twinkling stars where we can be still and think … think of what to do.”
“Okay,” Jill beeped, stretching a front leg across the space to grab a limb near Bo.
“You know something?” She asked and before Bo could say anything, she added, “You look funny. You look a little bit like one of those things hanging on that branch over there,” she said pointing a cow.
“Thanks! Bo said roughly, “Better that one, than one of those,” he said indicating the camel ornament hanging not far away.
“Maybe won’t harm us, if we acted like one of those … just hanging from a twig and not saying anything?” Jill asked. “It was your croak that made them notice us in the first place you know. Maybe if we become like one of those…”
“A good idea…” Bo interrupted and added, “We can disguise ourselves as whatever those are until we can figure a way to get out of here and back into the woods.”
“You go first!” Jill said, “You’re better at deception than I am.”
“I’ll take that as a complement,” Bo said wiggling to the outer length of the branch. It sagged a bit under his slight weight. He attached his twelve finger-cups to the bark and needles draped his belly over the branch and pointed his face out from the tree, “How does this look?” he asked in a low voice.
“You look to me like you belong there as much as those creatures, doing whatever they are doing,” she said. “I’ll take this twig,” she said assuming a similar stance on a branch away from but still within view of Bo.
For hours, the two frogs remained motionless thinking about how they might escape the dry cave and return to their beloved out-of-doors.
Occasionally, the big would start toward the tree to see what Bo and Jill were doing, but before she could get there, someone always came in the cave and distracted her. Throughout the day other bigs kept coming to get smelly things, which were put into flimsy holes and carried away. The frogs had never heard anything like the unpleasant noise that sounded each time someone came and went. Through it all, the two frogs remained still and silent.
Later that day after school, Glen and Jen were joined by their friends, Max Blair, Joan Skinner, Sally Mercer, Bill Barton and Lloyd Ring. The friends gathered in the school foyer putting on coats, gloves and hats before venturing out into the cold. The twins told them about driving to Surprise Lake, cutting a Christmas tree and bringing it home and about the two frog that had taken up residence in the friendly tree and ended up coming home with it.
“It’s in the display window at Sweet Tooth,” Jen said.
“Yeah, I promised Mom that Max and I will take them to the woods this afternoon,” Glen added and asked, “You game, Max?”
“Yeah… I’m cool with frogs,” Max said.
“Hey,” Joan injected, “I want to see what ornaments your mom added to the tree this year.” She chuckled and added, “It was mice last year, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, I think … I loose track… it was mice, wasn’t it Glen?” Jen questioned turning to her brother.
“Yeah, mice… what a kick…” Glen said and burst into song, “The cattle are lowing… the poor baby awakes… The mice are all squeaking… the poor baby shakes…”
They all laugh.
“I don’t think mom’s made up her mind yet. She surprises us too,“ Jen said. “Whatever it is, it’ll be there next week for sure. You know the week before Christmas, the whole town will come have a look.”
“Your tree is always fun … I’m coming to have a look,” Bill said.
Me too!” “I’m coming.” “Count me in…” called the others. The happy group of teenagers exited the foyer of the school and ventured out into lightly falling snow to begin the half-mile walk to the cozy pastry shop.
On their way, the gang passed Hallberg’s Market where a manger scene glowed warmly against the chilly air. Jen dropped behind the others to admire Mr. Hallberg’s tribute to Christmas. The delicate crèche with figures of Joseph, Mary and the animals spoke to her soul … at least the symbols helped her to organize her feelings about religion … about God, as did her mother’s custom of hanging the crèche figurines on their Christmas tree in the pastry shop window. The innocence of the animals was a powerful reminder to her of Jesus’ call… the call to repentance… the return to innocence. She didn’t know what her friends thought of her being so sentimental. Church didn’t seem to be of much consequence in the lives of people her age. “We’re pretty cynical these days,” she thought.
The others stopped and turned to wait.
“I like it,” Jen said joining the others.
“It’s a hoot alright,” Lloyd said glibly.
The sharp wind began to pick up. Glen started to sing, “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus, lay down his sweet head…”
Joan joined in with “the stars in the heaven looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay…”
By the time they reached the Sweet Tooth the group was joyously singing… “Deck the halls with bows of holly…”
When they arrived at the Sweet Tooth, snow had gathered on the window ledge framing the Christmas tree scene in white and the brightly colored Christmas lights beaming under the heavy cloud cover and falling snow, made the pastry shop glow.
“It’s very cool,” Sally said admiringly. “I love the smell.”
“Yeah, and look at your tree,” Bill agreed, “You guys really got a pretty one.”
“Hey!” Max shouted. “Look at that… that frog hanging there. That’s rad.”
Lloyd pointed to another branch, “There’s another one.”
“It looks like your mom picked frogs this year,” Joan laughed.
“That would be a surprise. We’ll find out,” Glen said leading his friends into the shop.
“Hey, Mrs. Eager,” Lloyd said, grinning her, “Who would have guessed you’d pick frogs for your tree? How cool is that?” He walked close to the tree for a closer look at Bo.
Liz couldn’t say anything. Instead she looked at Larry hoping he would tell them what had to be done.
“I’ll bet there were frogs in Bethlehem… probably not Pacific frogs… but some type of frog.” Joan said joining Lloyd at the tree. “They are soooo cute.”
“What a terrific idea Mrs. Eager!” Sally enthused joining Joan and Lloyd at the tree, “… to add live ornaments. I’ll bet it’s a first.”
“They haven’t moved,” Joan observed.
“I’ll bet they won’t stay hanging in the same place … will they?” Lloyd opined.
“There are lots of places in the tree for them to hang out, don’t you think, Mom?” Glen asked hoping his friends mistaken belief would resonate with his doubtful mother.
“I appreciate you giving me credit for a cute idea, but unless we take them back into nature, they’ll likely die from the heat and lack of moisture,” she said adding, “Won’t they Larry?”
“Boy, we put the frogs in a bad spot by bringing them here in the first place,” Larry said supporting his wife’s concern.
“Dad, you can’t say that.” Jen protested. “We can’t let them die.”
“We’ve awakened them from hibernation,” Larry said measuring his words. “ Put them back out in the freezing cold…I don’t know…”
“We’ll feed them,” Jen cried looking at Glen.
“Feeding isn’t enough,” Larry injected. “They need moisture.”
Liz looked at the disappointed faces of her teenagers and their friends. “Maybe we can find a way,” she said, “We can put plastic beneath the tree and spray it with water enough to keep them hydrated… do you think, Larry?”
“Boy… I don’t know…” Larry hesitated.
“Mister Eager!” Sally pleaded.
The others joined Sally’s plea. They anxiously awaited Larry’s response.
“Yeah,” Larry relented, “that ought to work… but we’ll have to unplug the lights. You okay with that?” Larry asked.
“I don’t care about the lights!” Jen said, “I’d rather have live frogs.”
“Let’s do it,” Glen said extracting the plug from the socket.
The room was plunged into semidarkness. The only remaining light source came from the lights ringing the pastry shop’s display window and the dim lights in the pastry cases. The room took on a soft, warm friendly glow.
“Wow,” Max said, “I like it.”
It didn’t take long for word to spread around Detroit Lake that Liz Eager had this year added live frog ornaments to The Sweet Tooth display Christmas tree. The incredible tale of frogs becoming Christmas tree ornaments was not limited to humans living in and around Detroit Lake. Word spread among animals as well… that is those who weren’t sleeping. Willard Cardinal wondered aloud if he and his lady friend, Linda, might become next year’s live ornaments. “There’s chance… maybe,” Linda said hopefully, “if we hang out around the shop.”
Even Rusty, Bo and Jill’s eagle friend, on his way home from a visit to the upper waters of the majestic Columbia River stopped by the famous bakery shop to see the unlikely, but inspiring sight.
“This is going to be a Christmas you will remember,” Rusty said through the window to the sleepy frogs. “It looks like you are in good hands. You two have a good sleep,” he said and shaking his huge wings took flight.
Of course, all the residents in Detroit Lake visited the shop at least once. Children dragged parents by the shop every chance they got to ogle the cute green frogs hanging among the other animal ornaments symbolic of that first Christmas.
Bo and Jill didn’t understand what had happened to them, but they were content in their new home, never doubting that, when the needles fell from what had been their forest home, the resourceful Eager family would find a way to safely return them to Surprise Lake.
The next time Jen visited the crèche at Hallberg’s Market, she stopped by the cradle to tell Jesus that two frogs were there that night to help celebrate his coming.