The Wooden Frog

I’m on vacation this week staying at one of my favorite places right on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, Star of the Sea. We have stayed here many times over the past five years or so, and I always look forward to returning.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a skeeball junkie. I love old-fashion arcades, and Rehoboth beach happens to be the home of one of my all-time favorite arcades.

Now for the real story.

Every year we’ve come to Star of the Sea, there’s been a wooden frog in the lobby leading out to the boardwalk. The first time we stayed, we discovered through mere curiosity that the wooden frog was hollow and you could remove his top to reveal a shallow bowl. It was empty, and it gave me an idea; I decided to leave something in the frog as a gift for the next curious explorer, most likely a child.

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My first thought was a treasure map leading to a small buried/hidden treasure, but later decided that wasn’t a practical thing as the bearer of the map might not be the first to discover the stash. I opted instead to leave arcade tickets.

Such a gift was utterly within my character, as my arcade winnings are rarely if ever, redeemed for prizes. It is my tradition to give the tickets away to a child before leaving the arcade. It’s actually my favorite part of going to the arcade; getting to see a child’s face light up when they realize that I’m gifting them my tickets.

Ever since that first year, upon our arrival at Star of the Sea, we’ve checked the frog to see what loot others may have stashed there. I’m reasonably sure that each time we’ve found something in the frog. Always some sort of anonymous gift.

This year, we discovered several pieces of what appears to be play money and various other items.

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We discovered a little note card sitting next to the frog simply saying, “Take one, leave one.” Perhaps management or the cleaning service have clued in on the game their patrons like to play.

Our trip to the arcade this morning has now supplied our newest contribution to the wooden frog. A ticket slip from the arcade will be found by the next set of curious little fingers to explore the frog in the lobby.

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I have no idea if we were the first to begin what has become this tradition of paying it forward, but to those who continue to participate, I thank you. It’s nice to see that there are still small treasures in this world to be found if you are curious enough to go looking.

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A Thank You to George S. Schmidt

Upon being asked recently when I began writing and who my favorite writers are, I recalled a specific book of poetry that I’ve kept in my collection for a considerable length of time and have periodically returned to throughout my life. I believe the book came to me around the age of 8 or 9, but how it became mine, I’m not entirely certain. Most likely I picked it up at a yard sale or library sale as I do know that it was not a new book when it came to me. Its pages had already begun to yellow at that point.

From the first time I read the book, there were some poems that I enjoyed. Not every verse was of interest to me (as is still the case), but one poem, “Sunlit Yesterdays,” stands out in this collection as a poem I’ve repeatedly read to the point of near memorization. I have no idea what exactly drew me to this particular poem as a child since it is the poet reflecting on his life in old age. But this poem has always drawn me in. There are a few others I’ve always enjoyed within the collection as well. The book is entitled Random Rhymes, which seems rather nondescript and ordinary.

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However, my most recent re-exploration of this book focused not so much on the poetry itself, but I was curious about the background of the book and its author. I made some interesting coincidental discoveries (exciting to me anyway), and I wanted to share them.

So the book was written by George S. Schmidt and it just so happens that he was from York, PA, which is only about 30-40 minutes away from where I live. This information intrigued me, and I have been digging for more details. The forward of his book indicated publication in 1928. I was able to find a copy of the book for sale on Amazon. Even more amazing, I learned that this was Schmidt’s second book of poetry, the first was entitled Vagrant Verses.  Mr. Schmidt was a business person and lawyer in York; he was born in 1861 and died in 1935.

George S. Schmidt appears to have had a sense of humor that I quite appreciate. In the forward he says, “I am transmitting this booklet to the individual members of the Order, and to a few other of my friends, at a time when their hearts are so throbbing with goodwill towards men, and their eyes too dazzled by the lights of Christmastide, that their vision is impaired, and the manifold defects in these random and disconnected rhymes may ‘to some extent’ escape them.” I find this amusing. It appears that he gave this book only to a small circle of friends (it was privately published) and told them that even though they received the book out of his love and affection for them, they were in no way obligated to read all of it or any of it for that matter. A man after my own heart, he was.

I am sure none of this is of interest to anyone besides myself. However, I can’t get over the idea that I’ve kept this book for over 20 years because it marked the beginning of my love for poetry and, in part, inspired me to write poetry myself. So for the past 15 years, I’ve been living within miles of the author’s hometown. The book traveled over a hundred miles to get to me as a child, only to land close to home once again.

So, in conclusion, I thank you my dear departed friend, George S. Schmidt for your many years of companionship. I have indeed read each poem in your collection, and though I do not like every poem, I do appreciate your work.

Forget to Remember

Sitting here lost on memory lane, in a daydream world, thinking about that time…

in a daydream world, thinking about that time…

I smile to myself, and for a moment –

I forget to remember,

you’re no longer here.

Walking from room to room in my mind

retracing my steps within this house;

I find myself watching you at the kitchen table, playing solitaire.

Deftly picking and choosing and moving cards,

I hear you cluck your tongue softly, deep in thought,

as is your habit. I see you sitting there.

And for just that moment

you’re as real as real can be;

I forget to remember,

you’re no longer here.

I think back to spending the night

curled up on your couch,

snuggled safe, in a blanket

that smelled just like you.

You check on me and

say goodnight, as I drift off to sleep…

and for a moment,

I forget to remember…

you’re gone.

 

[Author’s note: Written in remembrance of Carol Doty.]