Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Mom Who Cried Dead Fish

We have a refrigerator/freezer that we keep in the garage to hold the extra things—large pots of soup, cases of juice boxes, pop, big bags of frozen veggies, frozen pizzas, the good kielbasa, and now, the dead fish.
And nothing makes me more excited and ready for spring than going out to that freezer.
Curly, our beta fish, had graced the kitchen counter for two years. Blissfully he swam in his murky water, blipping up to the top for his occasional feeding. “A hungry fish is a happy fish,” I was told, and nothing made me happier that not having to tend to this critter on a daily basis.
I’m not sure how the kids came up with “Curly” in the first place, but as most pet names given by children it was fairly normal. A friend of mine had a fish named “Telephone,” so I was grateful to have one of the Stooges living next to the sink.
For the time we had him, Curly and I had a connection. He strangely brought me great joy in a reliable sort of way. He was always there, always swimming, always giving me the fish lips.
But then, last fall, he started to swim a little slower.
“Curly’s dying,” I told the kids, to prepare them for the unavoidable tragedy that would be upon us. And at first they were sad and cried a bit and asked where we would bury him. In my attempt to introduce them to the circle of life and biodegrading and nature and all that stuff, I told them that we would bury Curly in our garden where his body would help nourish our vegetables.
It all sounded a bit whimsical and hippie-ish, but they bought it. And liked it. And so it became the plan.
But Curly didn’t die. He just got a little slower.
Then December came, and Curly swam a little slower yet.
“Curly’s dying,” I again told the kids, re-preparing them. They were a little less sad this time and overwhelmed with the impending holiday, so it didn’t seem like such a big deal. My son just asked if he could dig the hole in the garden.
But once again, Curly didn’t die. He just got even slower. It got to be that every day I would tap the side of his little bowl, only to watch one side of Curly flip and flap before he sank again to the bottom.
And on and on this same story goes.
“Curly’s dying,” I told the kids.
“Yeah, right,” they replied, and I couldn’t blame their apathy. I was the Mom Who Cried Dead Fish.
But finally, after months of the tapping and mild flapping, I found Curly stiff as a board. Cold as ice. And undoubtedly, light as a feather.
The problem now was that Curly had chosen the absolute worst time to die—the cold snap of January 2009. Not only was the outdoor temperature -11 degrees, but there was also snow to contend with. The fish that I had connected with, that I bonded with, that I checked for vitality for weeks on end was putting my parental promises to the test.
And that is why, when you open the freezer in my garage, right next to the pizzas you will find a tiny plastic baggie with another plastic baggie inside, wrapped up in paper towel with a permanent marker inscription that reads “RIP Curly.”
As much as I go out into that freezer, seeing that little frozen dead fish carcass really makes me itchy for spring and planting a garden. I’m ready for the change in season. Not only am I anxious to feel the warmth of the sun and the dirt under my fingernails, but I’m also ready to reclaim those few square inches of freezer space.

3 comments:

BECKY said...

I'll never be able to watch The Three Stooges again without visions of a tiny, albeit, dead fish! It also brings to mind the episode where an oyster keeps spitting back at Curly, while he tries to eat his oyster soup!! Woo-woo-wooooo! Yuk, Yuk, Yuk.....

Ann PM said...

That's nothin--Our pet lizard died in January, I stuck him in the freezer and I we kept forgetting to thaw him out until the following fall! RIP, Fred the mali euromastix!

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