Sunday, my children came home from a trip to the County Fair with their grandparents, grinning and giggling with glee. The surprise? Two goldfish -- their hard won prizes at the Ping Pong Toss.
I had a feeling this probably was not going to end well, but I played along. We relocated the fish out of their plastic bags and into a small bowl. The children gingerly tapped fish flakes into the cap, then put just a pinch in the water to avoid overfeeding. They gave them names -- Daisy for my daughter's, Red Rocket for my son's.
On Monday, I was pleasantly surprised to see them still darting about. We carefully followed directions to change the bowl with fresh water that we sat out for 24 hours. Now optimistic at Daisy and Rocket's chances for survival, I boldly took the kids to a pet store to get some supplies to dress up the austere plastic bowl. My daughter chose hot pink gravel, my son a little rock cave.
I noticed it was a very busy day in the fish department.
Several families were walking out with new Betas and Guppies in plastic bags. One mother confessed they were heartier replacements for their Fair fish -- recently deceased. I whispered "How long did yours last?" "Less than a day," she mouthed.
"It's always like this when the Fair comes to town," said the aquatic department clerk.
I bought a small aquatic plant in the hopes it would help boost the oxygen content.
At home, the tiny bowl came alive. The clear water danced on top of the pink gravel, and Daisy and Red Rocket flitted happily through the plant leaves. We sprinkled their evening meal, congratulated ourselves on beating the odds -- and the kids went to bed talking about our now expanded family of two kids, two cats... and two fish.
"How are the fishies doing this morning?" I texted my husband from work.
"To be honest, I think one is dead" he texted back.
Daisy. Belly up.
I called home to comfort my daughter, expecting tears.
"It's okay, Mommy," she said. "You know we can just go to the pet store and buy me a better fish."
And a bigger tank. And a pump. And a filter, some glo-plants, and that neat pirate ship thingy where the bubbles lift the treasure chest lid...
In 48 hours, we'd whizzed through lessons in love, loss -- and commerce. Where was the anguish? The opportunity to provide motherly guidance on God and death and acceptance? I have to admit, I felt slightly cheated.
My son, always the pragmatist, chimed in.
"Well mom," he said, "at least we didn't win the hog raffle."