Fish! Such safe, innocuous pets, we thought. Low maintenance, low cost, we convinced ourselves. Ha! As If! Those were the days of innocence.
Five years ago, when our son was, well five years younger, the pet discussion had dragged on for months before finally we all agreed on fish. Dogs were out as we travelled abroad a lot, cats were ruled out after my husband mentioned his (still unwitnessed) allergy to the feline creatures. So fish it was.
Five years later my son’s fishes are mostly ours! How wonderfully typical.
Five traumatic years later we still persevere. You’d think we’d know better by now.
The first days and weeks of joy and excitement were ones of bliss. Each feeding time an event in itself, numerous questions of sleeping habits, eating habits and er, mating habits, had me rushing secretly to google in a desperate attempt to provide an intelligent answer to my keen son.
Names. Of course the fish were soon all named and if you’re embarking on this venture, be warned. Once named, you’re doomed. After all, this is not just one pet, but dozens.
As the first poor mite pined away, then visibly sickened I watched my son’s emotional rollercoaster helplessly. His fears became mine. That was only the start.
Years of fish-related nightmares followed; tankful of dying fish, escaping fish, fishes with humongous deformed eyes!
I quickly became an expert on diagnosing their diseases – that was the easy part. Treating meant possibly killing the other healthy ones. Catch-22.
When the first poor blighter died we agreed upon a funeral and solemnly it was placed in a matchbox. My husband donned his winter coat and gloves and looked at us expectantly.
My son and I both glanced at the cold grey frozen outdoors then my son asked could he stay in? I nodded, relieved and quickly agreed I would remain in the warm house with him.
My husband turned and headed out for the pre-arranged burial site, picking up a trowel from the shed along the way.
Minutes later, I saw him on his knees, hacking away at the frozen ground. Finally the deed was done and he eased himself up, then stood still for a moment. Stretching his back? Or saying a few words, perhaps?
By then, exhausted from lack of sleep, over-wrought with emotions, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I fancy, I did both.
Fiver years later, our love affair with the fishes has only, perversely, flourished. On Saturday, as our son went to the cinema with friends (oh, how I recall those idyllic care-free days!), my husband and I do what all sensible parent do with a couple of free hours- we headed to the pub!
Once ensconced in a cosy corner we settled down with our drinks and snack and talked; desperately trying NOT to talk only about our son. After all, we must have conversed in our pre-child life. Didn’t we?
At last, I relaxed, easing into the peace and novelty of the day when ‘ping’ a text. Yep, my son asking if I could email a photograph of his passport for proof of age.
I remained strong! (Round of applause, please.) Where before I would have dashed to the car, driven six miles home in a panic to fulfil his request I stopped to think. To be rational.
Picking up the phone, I took a deep breath and called my son. On hearing where we were, he was ever so apologetic. I offered to to talk to the attendant but in the end the boys sorted the problem themselves and I continued to enjoy my drink…well, sort of…only fully calm when I received a text that they were in and the film was about to start.
The day continued with a visit to the Garden Centre. I don’t know what it is about these places but they are quietly reassuring, providing a burst of colour and hope in the middle of winter. A mecca of stunning flowers, a homage to dreams and possibilities. They are so normal.
Normality. For years I fought against its existence; the very word an anathema to me. I wanted excitement, I wanted constant change. Gradually I began to recognise the power and significance of normality and routine. What I feared was what I needed. Those repetitive routine tasks are the basic building blocks of life that form the secure foundation of my life and that of those close to me; however they are intermingled with adventures, of course!
As our normal day continued, our thoughts returned to the depleted fish tank; full of plants, Greek temple ruins, treasure chest but not many fish. With determination we headed to the aquatic centre.
Thirty minutes later we exited carrying a brown paper bag, with 12 guppies swarming at the bottom of the plastic bag within. Once home we slowly introduced the guppies to the tank; our eyes bedazzled by the beautiful array of colours, the luminescent fan tails shimmering away. We stood back and admired our catch; the proud new
I just had one thought in my mind.
How did this ordinary day become so extra-ordinary?
Enjoy this star-studded version of ‘Perfect Day ‘ by Lou Reed, who appears throughout wearing cool dark glasses. The song sums up my day perfectly:))