What a way to learn about life... To get up each morning and wonder how many of the funny little black beans with nostrils and diaphanous tails might have started to sprout tiny limbs during the night. Hind legs first, then front ones - I could almost, almost watch them grow in front of my eyes, I'm sure.
What a way to learn about death, too... occasionally having to scoop out a lifeless body, the unfortunate weaklings which were never going to have made it into froghood. But the rest - I was fascinated at each stage of their development, watching them gulp down the goldfish flakes with mouths which seemed to open almost mechanically, like those of a ventriloquist's dummy. Mesmerised by the way they swerved and darted about just below the surface. Excited as the weeks passed and legs got longer, tails got shorter and newly recognisable frog features began to form. Alchemy!
I don't think my mum ever made an Apple Crumble during the Summer; the tadpoles took priority.
Eventually they were ready to liberate - the timing was important, it needed to be just before there was any risk that they'd crawl out of the pie dish and end up inside the vacuum cleaner. We'd take them into the garden where the tortoises feasted on the dandelions in the lawn and where we had two small ponds. Neither was fancy; in fact one was simply an old-fashioned washing-up bowl sunk into the clay soil, but both were full of what seemed to be the most alien life-forms imaginable. Twitching, wriggling mosquito larvae with fan tails... wonderfully named Water Boatmen propelling themselves with oar-like limbs... and freshwater snails in tightly coiled transparent shells grazing on viridescent algae.
Some of the froglets may inevitably have been eaten by our cats, or the blackbirds, or a visiting hedgehog, but others would survive out there with the pondskaters, caddisflies and newts, growing into big bulky adults with beautifully long toes and inky speckled backs.
I'll be forever grateful to my arty, free-spirited (and occasionally clinically depressed) mum and her Pyrex dish for teaching me to grow tadpoles in my bedroom. And for her Apple Crumble too, of course, once the frogs were out in the pond...
L7 - Bite The Wax Tadpole