Let’s face it, girls. There are some things about being a mommy, they just don’t tell us. Like how, after giving birth, your tummy and titties will never look the same. How, even if you’re a citizen, on some days, you threaten your kids with deportation. How, one day, your child will go to a school fair and with boundless enthusiasm, thrust at you a plastic bag with a live, gill-bearing craniate animal in it.
And how just like that, you are the Mother of the Fish.
Perhaps I am underestimating you, dear reader. Surely some of you will handle this newfound responsibility with great aplomb. I, on the other hand, did not handle myself well. “What in G-d’s name am I supposed to do with THIS!?!” I screamed at my (then) 7-year-old.
After all, I was just starting to get my groove on with two young girls, one in elementary school and one in preschool. The shlepping alone was killing me. We had already warned our little hellion that a dog was not in the cards. Non negotiable! But a fish…oh man, I didn’t have a speech for that. I was off my game. And there it was, swimming furiously in this claustrophobic, plastic bag, looking up at me with eyes that pleaded for mercy. Or at least fish food.
I knew NOTHING about fish. Yes, I had seen “Nemo” twice, taken my girls to the glorious Long Beach Aquarium, sat, reflected, prayed in awe at the fat, flirtatious koi fish at Lake Shrine Temple. But I was a total sturgeon, I mean, virgin, when it came to sea creatures. Suddenly, I was responsible for their bed, board and BettaMin.
I ran over to the local pet shop and bombarded the Fish Man with endless questions. “How much sleep does it need? Can I pet it? Do they like play toys?” Dang it, I was going to be the best “mother-of-the-fish that ever lived.
The next morning, I awoke to a scream reminiscent of a Wes Craven film and found my first-born, George, impaled on the harpoon of my new diver toy. My daughter blamed me for his demise and rightly so. I thought he could use a little stimulation. I just wanted to enhance the quality of his life.
I was so livid, I went marching in the pet shop, tears streaming down, demanding both my money back and an explanation. “How can you sell this DEATH TOY”, I wailed at the manager. My kids looked at me like ,“Mom, get a grip.” You see, the one thing I least expected with this whole fish ordeal actually occurred. I became emotionally hooked.
My tanks kept getting bigger and bigger. One day my husband came home to find a 10 gallon tank….for two goldfish. And in one of my not-so-proud moments, I erased someone else’s bid at a school silent auction so that I could close Escrow on an eye popping acrylic aquarium. Hey, we all know real estate is an ugly business!
When we go out of town, I do a background check on my sitters. “Have you ever sat for more than one fish before? Quick, what’s the difference between a goldfish and a beta fish? Define “pinch” for me. And so on. Why do they look at me like they’re doing ME a favor? I can stare at these bewitching creatures for hours. Okay, who am I kidding? I’m a mom. I can stare at them for minutes…many many minutes.
We have had our share of fish drama. Sammy Davis, our magnificent black goldfish with the most beguiling, bulging eye, was bullied by Orangina, a fancy orange goldfish. I watched in horror as Orangina nipped at him, over and over. “Can’t we all get along?!?” I pleaded. Finally, I bought another tank. By the time I implemented the bully prevention program , it was too late. The fish man at Petco told me we must euthanize Sammy Davis. It was the compassionate thing to do. My kids were bummed. I was HEARTBROKEN.
A few weeks later, my (then) 8 year old was looking in the tank and saw only something her young eyes could detect. Little white specs. “They’re eggs, mom” she wisely determined. “Don’t be silly” I told her. “Fish Man said that goldfish never mate in these tanks. Only in the wild.” “Fish Man is WACKED”, she adamantly stated. “These are eggs!” She transferred them to the new tank which had housed our deceased little soldier. And lo and behold, they were eggs! No wonder Orangina bullied Sammy Davis! He was protecting his turf, his maiden, Fleur (think: Fleur Delacour from Harry Potter).
One day, a teeny tiny speck of a guppy, wriggled around…one survivor, out of the hundreds of eggs. I don’t have to tell you what we named him. Nemo lived for three glorious weeks. Then an overzealous mom changed the water and…kaput. I was not the only one who mourned. My kids, my parents, the in-laws, even my nanny all sat shiva for Nemo. You’d think after this, I’d hang it up. Call it a day. I mean, how much loss can one family bear?
Before you despair, dear reader, there is a silver lining. Orangina has now been with us for two years, Fleur as well And they’ve had a roommate for a year now, an electric blue fighting fish named “Skye.” And yes, they all get along.
So mammas, when it comes to getting hooked, good luck and g-dspeed. Or as my nine-year-old says: Layta Beta!