A friend and I swapped fish tales recently. No, we weren't sitting in a boat on a lake. We were standing in Petsmart looking at aquariums.
He revealed that his daughter would like a goldfish for her seventh birthday. He pictured a little round bowl for her dresser. She pictured a big aquarium with a tank, filter, heater, gravel, logs, plants and fun things for the fish to swim through, to the tune of $180.
As they browsed the aisles, he soon realized that the type of fish she liked weren't actually goldfish. They were blood parrot fish. The difference? About $9!
In addition, it turns out that they are social fish, which doesn't mean they like to be petted like my daughter does ours every morning, but that they live in groups, so he'll need at least three or four.
My reply? "You only turn seven once!"
I told him we won our goldfish from the county fair each year. My kids say they live longer. Of course, I confided, when I added up the entrance fee, arm band, $5 per game fee, cotton candy and corn dogs, we probably could have come home with an aquarium full of blood parrot fish, instead of a plastic bag with one tiny goldfish, for the same amount of money.
Speaking of tiny fish, when my daughter was in kindergarten, we, too, went fish shopping. For whatever reason, she fell in love with "Spot." Once they name them, they are yours. Spot, fortunately for me, was in the two-cent tank, otherwise known as the feeder tank, and, fortunately for him, my daughter didn't care.
"You mean you want this one?" asked the sales clerk.
I looked at my daughter. She beamed and nodded. Two cents later, Spot came home with us. He lived to be one month old.
The next year, my daughter came home and said her classroom aquarium was empty. We decided to surprise the kids by filling the tank. My husband had seen some cheaper fish at Wal-mart. Yes, cheaper than two cents. Just kidding. He splurged and spent $1.50 a piece on them, and then $10 on gas for the return trip, as they both died before he reached the school.
Our current fish is a cannibal. One day we woke up, and the kids asked, "Where's Goldie? Spot the Third's in here, but Goldie's gone."
"Did you dispose of Goldie?" I asked my husband out of ear shot.
"The fish. Did you have to flush him?"
"I haven't seen him."
Spot the Third became known as Hannibal from that day forward.
The proudest fish tale I have to tell is about my son. It happened this past fall. He stood in line for 30 minutes for a chance to throw a ball in a fishbowl and take home a goldfish while his other friends played.
"Don't you want to go do the jumpy thing?" I asked, anxious to go to dinner and dreading the thought of carrying a fish around all night. "You are wasting all your play time."
"I want to win a fish," he said.
"Just what we need," I'm pretty certain I said to the mom next to me. And about that time, "Splunk," in the bowl went the ball.
"Mom! I won! I won!"
"OK, son, well, it's time to go now," I said, less than enthused.
"Wait, Mom, I've got to give this to somebody."
And to my amazement, I watched my son take his bag to a kindergarten boy and hand it to him.
He came back and said, "OK, I'm ready now."
"Do you know that boy?"
"No, but I saw him crying because he didn't win a fish. He needs it more than I do."
I have never hugged a kid so hard.
Later, that little boy's mother told me how much it meant to them. It seemed she'd been sick and in the hospital all week. All her son had talked about was getting to the festival so he could win a fish. Not winning the fish triggered a week's full of emotions. I hadn't even noticed the crying boy running by me. Thankfully, my son had. I don't know which mom was happier, but I know we were all glad for that little boy to go home with his fish in the bag.
Well, everyone except for Hannibal, that is.