It’s Father’s Day And I Can’t Stop Thinking About Frogs.

When I was five years old, my favorite movie in the whole entire world was the 1964 classic musical My Fair Lady.  

For those of you who are unfamiliar: My Fair Lady is a three-hour epic with cockney accents, lots of beautiful camerawork displaying the grime of Victorian London, prim sexual mores, class struggles, and giant hats. We had it on a 2-cassette VHS that I would watch incessantly, right down to the ten minutes of “Intermission” that was literally just footage of a red velvet curtain and some background music.

So: Halloween 1990. There were like, nine Little Mermaids, four witches, a cat, a tiger, and three Cinderellas in my kindergarten classroom. I strolled right on in wearing my mother’s pencil skirt safety-pinned around my waist and her satin bolero jacket as a Victorian-era waistcoat. I smudged some dirt around, cut the fingers off a pair of winter gloves, and practiced my Cockney accent in the mirror for like two weeks. Best Halloween ever!!!!!!!, I thought, until I was unflinchingly mocked by my tiny peers for coming to school dressed like a hobo holding an Easter Basket. Fuck you guys, I might have thought to myself if I knew that word at the time. I like my imaginary friends better anyways. I wonder what’s going on with Mary Poppins and Eloise. I bet they could kick your ass.

It was Father’s Day recently, and I bring all this up because every year when that Sunday in June rolls around, the one where I wake up and I think oh no, oh not again and realize that I have once again forgotten how to use the post office in a timely manner, I like to drudge up some old pictures of my Dad. 80’s moustache. Giant glasses. Questionable sweaters. My nose. My eyes. 

And when I stare at those photos and try to remember what it was like to be so small, I don’t hear the sounds of his voice or the way his footsteps were muffled by the thick green carpeting or his snoring in front of the golf channel. I hear the soundtrack to My Fair Lady, and I hear him singing along.

Let me be clear: this is not a man with a heretofore unknown passion for classic movie musicals. This is a man who takes care of business. His most insane flight of fancy has been rooting for the Mets for fiftysomething years. He has watched the golf channel since the golf channel was invented, and I think he prefers it on mute. He’s a funny and goofy guy, when you get to know him, but – he’s a doctor. He works around the clock. He saves lives. He takes everything incredibly seriously.

But because he had a weird little kid whom he loved, my poor dad resigned himself to nightly arriving home after insanely long and exhausting workweeks to find dashingly romantic Freddy Einsford-Hill, played by some actor I don’t feel like googling right now, warbling the classic ballad On The Street Where You Live as I inched my nose closer and closer to the glass, picturing my future wedding dress. It was only a matter of time before fictional character Freddy Einsford-Hill married me and whisked me off to London on horseback.*

Do you know that song? Freddy – the dope in the grey jacket– is hopelessly in love with Eliza, played by iconic starlet Audrey Hepburn – for basically no reason. They met for six seconds where she put her foot in her mouth repeatedly at a horse race populated by crusty socialites wearing hats the size of the horses themselves. He then tracks down her address (…?), is told she doesn’t feel like seeing him ever again, and then rather than just sad Charlie-Brown-walk home, he stands outside her door and sings about it.  It’s my all-time favorite song about stalking.**

I have often walked down this street before
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before
All at once am I several stories high
Knowing I’m on the street where you live

I don’t remember exactly how much time I spent endlessly watching this, but if I was to offer an educated guess – a LOT. Months of warbling British musicals, watched over and over, by a manic kid who hadn’t seen a hairbrush in weeks and whose idea of a rollicking Friday night was to scream nonsense phrases about horse races at her parents in an unintelligible accent.

My dad’s eventual coping mechanism was just to sing over the TV. Louder, sillier, with new lyrics that he made up on the spot. There were multiple versions, but the one that stuck was the frog one:

People stop and stare
They don’t bother me
They’re just mildly confused ‘cause there’s a frog on me

At once, Freddy was forgotten. It was all about my dad at that moment. I would howl with laughter and bury my head in the couch cushions and think, my dad is the funniest person in the universe.

All at once am I
Eating fireflies
Hanging out with this frog where you live
Are there many frogs in your part of town?
Are there flies to eat in any other part of town?
Why am I so sad on my lillypad?
I am here, with this frog, where you live…
And ohhhh! My croaaking siiinnggging …

My dad gave me a lot, but I don’t think he realizes the half of it. He liked Mel Brooks movies and Star Wars and political cartoons like Bloom County and Doonesbury, so I did too. I’m sure he didn’t mean for it to happen this way, but it meant that I grew up with an irreverent sense of humor, a seriously nerdy streak, and a surprisingly concise understanding of 80’s political humor and social issues.

He gave me a childhood just messy and complicated and tragic enough to make me funny and smart and resilient and strong. He gave me a work ethic. He didn’t really give a shit that I was weird, that I had imaginary friends, that I failed dismally at all of his best attempts to push me towards athletics. I was his kid, and he loved me. He still does.

And when I came home from school with my heart broken on that Halloween because those other kids were assholes and I had my first real taste of feeling different and alone, I wish I could remember what he did. I wish my memory holds up. I don’t honestly know what happened when I told him why I was upset, sniffling into my tiny basket filled with fake African violets. I do remember, though, that sometime not too long after that Halloween, I wasn’t feeling well, or maybe just was feeling sorry for myself, and curled up in a ball of sad on the couch. My dad came home, for probably the first time in weeks, to a quiet home. I remember him setting his briefcase down, and I remember him looking at me.

“Do me a favor?” he said. “Put on My Fair Lady for me. I want to watch the scene at the racetrack tonight.” 

Image

 You GUYS. 

 

 

*Viewing poor Freddy Einsford-Hill with adult eyes, he’s – you know, he’s nice and all, but definitely not the guy you want to wind up with at the end of the movie. You know the type: sweet, kinda dopey, super boring, and prone to breaking into song outside your damn window at night.
**Other notable songs about stalking that make the list: Every Breath You Take by the Police. I’ll Get You by The Beatles. This Swedish twee pop song called Highschool Stalker by a band called Hello Saferide. I’m going to add In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel, but only because now I’m picturing John Cusack and the boom box outside my window, and it’s a much nicer image than poor, poor, dopey Freddy.

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29 thoughts on “It’s Father’s Day And I Can’t Stop Thinking About Frogs.

  1. Hilarious! I could have written this blog post! Except I was in 6th grade when I experienced the movie-musical-halloween-costume-mortification. I’m currently priming my 4 year old for the same inevitibility. Great post.
    PS. We should be best friends

  2. Thanks for sharing your story about your dad connecting with his little girl. It reminds me of this picture that I recently saw on facebook of a father picking up his little girl and swinging her around in the air and her huge smile and… I know… I puked too. But before I puked, I did get a little watery in the eyes.

    Again, nice story. Give me your address and I will show up outside your window and sing romantic songs about sunsets and stuff.

    Also, I once was a leprechaun for Halloween- yes, only once. My mom said I was cute and adorable. Certain other children apparently had a different perception.

    The green leotards were very popular… as a topic of conversation. But there was no new trend of boys dressing up as leprechauns next year and wear green leotards (or whatever those leg tights are called).

    I liked the cereal Magic Charms: “it’s magically delicious!” Until that Halloween. Then, I simply hated them…. 😉

  3. I love every word of this post.

    For your stalking-song list – I recently heard John Lennon’s “I’m just a jealous guy,” and man, that is fucking CREEPY SHIT.

  4. This is perfect. If you had come to my house, *I* would have gotten it and loved you for it! I have watched that movie a hundred times if I’ve watched it once. I now have 4 teenagers that I got hooked on Monty Python, and when they were 13,12,11, and 11 or thereabouts, we had the best Halloween ever — one twin went as Eilonwy from the Lloyd Alexander books (she’s a princess, but my daughter was adamant she wasn’t just A princess, she was Eilonwy), the other twin wanted to be a classic ghost costume, so we cut holes in white sheets to the delight of many parents who loved the retro theme. The two boys, ages 13 and 12, wanted to go as the Spanish Inquisition guys from the Monty Python skit. They got red robes and fake massive crosses and rosaries and said “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” instead of “trick or treat.” You could tell the parents who ‘got it’ because they were the ones laughing too hard to speak and dumping the entire bowls of candy into my kids’ bags 😉

    Kudos to you for being a brave girl with an awesome costume and to your dad for being an awesome dad.

  5. I didn’t read your whole post. I’m sorry, I suck. I just read until the part about liking your imaginary friends more. I started laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, let alone read. thank you for allowing me to not be the only dorkazoid left in the universe, I appreciate it.

  6. “He gave me a childhood just messy and complicated and tragic enough to make me funny and smart and resilient and strong. He gave me a work ethic. He didn’t really give a shit that I was weird, that I had imaginary friends, that I failed dismally at all of his best attempts to push me towards athletics. I was his kid, and he loved me. He still does.”

    Now that’s a good parent. I hope my daughter says something similar about me someday on a blog I’ll promise not to read but probably will anyway.

  7. Excellent storytelling style in this post, and heartwarming. I am always late in sending my father’s day card, and I hope your Dad read this post because it reflects some strong memories which I am positive your father would appreciate knowing how you feel on Father’s day.

  8. Katherine,
    I am dying laughing and I am so happy I found you!
    All of the things I must do are piling up around me and I cannot escape from your blog. (WTH, I’ll just do whatever I want.)
    Thanks for making me laugh!
    Laura

  9. Wonderful. My Dad passed away a year ago at the age of 89 and I see a lot of him in your father. I don’t tear up easily, but I did reading this. As your Dad is still alive, and by the sound of it you have a good relationship with him, this advice will probably be redundant: treasure your time with him. Get as much of it as possible, ’cause once they’re gone, baby, they’re really gone. You get happy memories and that well-known hole in your heart. Just do it.

  10. This is the best. I’m crying laughing right now. I too loved that movie and me and my sisters would watch it over and over. My dad would sing “On the street where you live” and dance around the room pretending to be Freddy. Thanks for posting!

  11. One Halloween my pretty little 5 year daughter went to the party dressed as “Eddie Munster” Adorable and that is what she wanted. When we walked in ALL the other little girls were princesses and fairies. She looked up at me, nearly in tears and I knew she felt so out of place. But Guess what? She won the costume contest! The judge was the father of one of the little princesses. Take that!!

  12. If you had come to my door in that costume, I would have given you a handful of candy from the Good Bag that I hold back in reserve for the kids I know and, of course, for me. That’s one of the best costumes ever, and it’s especially great because you chose it yourself and didn’t have it chosen for you–that excellent taste in costumes was all your own. Also, I’m loving the blog.

  13. this. is. AMAZING.

    my dad once burst into improvised lyric-changing to the song mr. banks sings in ‘mary poppins’ – the one that goes, “a british bank is run with precision. a british home requires nothing less!”

    my dad, a heavy duty mechanic, sang, “an engine, must be built with precision, to make the pistons, go up and down.”

    my friend and i burst into a fit of laughter. solid gold memory, and now, obviously, that is the real version.

  14. this. is. AMAZING.

    my dad once burst into improvised lyric-changing to the song that mr. banks sings in ‘mary poppins,’ the one that goes, “a british bank is run with precision. a british home requires nothing less!”

    my dad, a heavy duty mechanic, sang, “an engine, must be built with precision. to make the pistons, go up and down.”

    my friend and i burst into a fit of laughter. solid gold memory. and his, obviously, became the real version.

  15. Loved every word of this! Both a beautiful tribute to a great dad and a hilarious Halloween story. Reminds me of when my similarly creative and oddball daughter simply had to be an elephant. So we found an elephant’s trunk at a costume shop, bought a grey sweatsuit, puffed it up with newspapers, painted her face grey, she practiced an elephant sound for days…..and all the little darling princesses ridiculed her for being fat (SHE WAS GOING AS AN ELEPHANT!!) and called her “elephant” for quite a while after that.

    Anyway, love your blog.

  16. I randomly stumbled upon your blog, and holy shit. I was so entirely obsessed with that movie, and now i am kind of obsessed with your blog. THANK U for making me laugh during this shitty gloomy period of my life (just got dumped 3 nights ago) Btw your Halloween costume is fucking stellar.

  17. This is a fantastic and wonderfully written account of your Halloween experience and how great it is to have a cheeky Dad who spontaneously changes lyrics. Mine changed the words to Prince.. I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I don’t know. What the bleep I am. Brings back great memories for me. Great post! I just love your outfit too… It was spot on. If it makes you feel better.. I dressed as Elvira in the 5th grade. They made me remove my balloon boobies which completely “made” the outfit. I was a distressing experience. The next year I tried Carmen Miranda. That didn’t work either. The other kids thought I was a Chico banana. Very glad to hear, in your delightful voice that I was not alone. Keep em coming.

  18. So very sweet. Your dad’s frog version made me tear up, and then I lost it when I scrolled down to your little Eliza Doolittle.

  19. Ha! I remember what a cosmic epiphany I had realizing that THE quintessential Sherlock Holmes was really that good old romantic mope Freddie Eynsford-Hill. (OK: Jeremy Brett — but it was still a shock, having grown up on MFL when you could only see it on “Saturday Night at the Movies” every couple of years). I think I learned something about life that day. Or acting, maybe.

  20. That Halloween costume was awesome!! That might have been the year I was dressed in my Aunts old prom dress. It was so big and my mom didn’t feel like altering it for me so I spent the whole night hiking it up so I could walk in it. And she made me wear a long sleeve turtleneck underneath it so it looked awesome! Or that was the year I was a gypsy. Thanks again for the good read. Samantha E

  21. that was beautiful! and yes, i loved freddie einsford hill as a child too and then when i saw it as an adult, the TLC song “no scrubs” came to mind.

  22. Just came over from Bill and Dave’s (TM) where the language (and the photos) isn’t usually this colorful. Looking at your photo I hear eighties anthem, “She’s got Rosey O’Donell Eyes”, which never found the airplay “She’s got Marty Feldman Eyes” enjoyed. But maybe you’re not old enough to remember. Now that you’ve garnered a following, Don’t you just want to quit your job and entertain people! Good stuff!

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