My revelational confession about our garage was somewhat censored. My mother read most of it in an email, and delicately pointed out that my anonymity was compromised, since we were using Chicken Blog for party updates. "What will the family think when they read this?" I did somewhat implicate someone in one part. She wondered if I wanted to air such personal stuff, and I guess it's really only okay to admit 'awful' things if they are about yourself...or if you give the guilty person a large floppy hat and a new name. So, I deleted a few lines, and moved on. No stepping on toes, unless they are my own. I will strive to respect everyone's dignity, except perhaps my own...
Last week our friends shared gold fish with us. Linda's favorite fish was about to give birth, and she wanted her to have some peace from all the other fish. So guests to her pool gathering were offered Ziplock baggies with 2 or 3 healthy, bright gold fish. Max was so enamored, he insisted they were his exclusive fish and told anyone who would listen, "I'll take the fish, but I won't eat them." Linda was so sweet, and repeated several times "I just know they're going to a good home. I'm so glad." Like an omen.
The road home is winding, long. Max hugged the cereal bowl (Next week: "Dirty Truck-A Mother's Helper") that held his bag of fish. We talked about the aquarium, somewhere in the garage, and how happy the fish would be in their new home. Max squeezed the bowl tighter, "No. My fish will live here. You'll never, ever take them from me." Somewhere between his last statement and the next curve in the road, the bag popped out of the bowl and slid between his seat and the rear passenger door. "Oh my God!" screamed William. "Poor fishies," sighed Alex. "Uh-oh," said Max. I pulled over, clicked on the hazard lights, and slowly opened Max's door. The bag slid down and into my hands. Max agreed that Alex should hold the fish the rest of the way, reminding him, harshly, "They're still mine though. Okay Alex?!" The fish looked shaken.
By the time we pulled into our driveway, Max was asleep, all 50 pounds of him. I carried him in, and then some bags. I called the boys back to bring in their wet towels, and reminded them to hang them on the shower stall. "Spread the towel out, don't bunch it all soggy and stinky." I went back to Max and changed his diaper. I checked messages on the phone and chatted with Grandma. I looked down, on the kitchen counter was the bowl, and in the bowl was a deflated, sad bag of listless fish.
I ran to the garage and found our 'just in case water' and hurried back to the kitchen. I poured the fish into a large glass bowl and began to stream cool, distilled water over their heated little fishy heads. Fish number 1 swam, a real oxygen hog, I supposed. Fish number 2 tilted side to side and only swam in slow circles. Not good. Fish number 3 was dead. It was on its side and had glazed fish market eyes. William stood behind me, "Oh, boy," he sympathized. I asked him if Alex was 'in the playroom,' and he said 'yes.' I thought this was good, and asked William to keep this morbid scene to himself.
Then #3 gaped. Not dead, but very nearly dead. I thought about mouth to mouth; gag. Then I considered CGR-cardio-gill-resuscitation. I grabbed him between my two fingers and gently squeezed. 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, just like ER! I do not pray for things. I pray in thanks, but rarely for favors and I didn't think I should break this habit pleading for a gold fish. So I talked the little guy through it: "Breathe. Breathe! 1-2, 1-2, 1-2!" I swirled the bowl and encouraged the fish's body to be stimulated by the motion of the water. #2 seemed to appreciate all the fresh water and he swam more intently than before. I was still hearing Linda's remarks about the 'good home, and how glad she was.' And I thought about the ridiculous lengths I was willing to go for a fish. At this point it seemed as merciful to just plant him in the zucchini patch as to go another round of swimming lessons and rehabilitative therapy. But now William was hopeful, and encouraging, and laughing. We were both laughing.
It may have been a sorry start, and I felt really bad about subjecting Linda's fish to so much peril and trauma. But maybe this is a good home. All three fish are swimming vigorously in their aquarium, on the counter, in the kitchen. They have lovely eastern views of the hills and orchards across the valley. There has been no lasting damage to any of the fish; full recovery for all. They eat heartily, and Max is still deciding on names. And the whole family can read about this; the dirty truck, the carelessness, the panic, the tense moments. In the end, it is a story about hope and recovery, and sometimes these things can be won at an embarrassing price.
William's favorite quote, he reminds me, is "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." And by moms too, I might add.