After ice skating for a while, I decided I could sit back with my book while I watched my kids through the glass. The Tuesday family skate brought less than ten kids that morning.
I sat in the viewing area with my book, while other moms enjoyed fellowship and coffee. I overheard one mom say to another, “I am going to have a party when that last goldfish dies!”
I chuckled to myself, since we had the amazing longevity-gifted goldfish at our house, too, and I completely understood what she was saying! We had won the fish at the State Fair. These three fish with an average life of one day, were going on their second YEAR at the Brady house – living in Tupperware, since I had given the fish tank away to a neighbor literally days before that State Fair.
The plastic home of these carnival fish lived in our basement homeschool area and always pleaded for cleaning. Always. It seemed that although the kids had begged to keep them, no one ever remembered we had them – except me – when I smelled them.
I get it ! I mean, when that last goldfish dies:
- No more working to keep the tank (or Tupperware) clean!
- No more rocks, filters, lights or food to replace!
- No more badgering kids to finish responsibilities!
As luck would have it, weeks after the overheard goldfish comment, one of our Fair goldfish was found in a not-so-fair state, floating on the top of the water. That night, a second fish was moving slowly, looking awfully buoyant, and dead by morning.
The third fish was gone within twenty-four hours, confirming that something must have happened to the water (which ironically, was clean this time).
(My husband wants me to tell you that he is innocent. Really.)
The mourning process in my kids was shocking to me.
Life appreciates after it is gone.
These ignored fish, suddenly had value now that they were gone, the same way the man in the casket always seems to have so many “best friends.”
“I miss him!” my eight-year-old cried, assigning gender to one who had no name or gender – that we had identified anyway. “I loved him so much.”
It felt completely silly to me, and I hid my smile,
“The worst part is that he doesn’t even go to heaven! It would be so much better, if I at least knew he was theeeeerrrrrrrrreee.” He cried, and I hugged him on the stairs where we stood, not remembering if we were going up or down.
His body shook in my arms, which made me hold more tightly. It was funny how much I didn’t care about the fish, but a tear left my eye, as I felt my son’s pain. To him, it was real, and that’s what mattered to me.
“Should we have a funeral?” I asked, finally, wiping my tear before he could see it. I couldn’t believe I was offering, but honestly, I felt like he had an emotion – and even though I did not share that emotion – I might help him work through it.
“What do you do at a funeral?” he asked, and I secretly thanked God that he hadn’t had a lot of exposure to death.
“It’s a time when we give our respects. We tell God thank you for giving us memories, like a celebration of the life. Sometimes people tell stories of the happy memories with the one who died.”
“Yeah, Let’s do that,” he said, as a calm overtook him.
He and his sister immediately began making “invitations” to the funeral, created a casket out of a paper cup, and dug a hole next to the fishpond in the back yard.
The three of us met at the pond, buried the treasure, and thanked God for giving us memories with the fish. We sang Amazing Grace, since I suppose even fish-death reminds us of the amazing grace of eternal life given to my children and me.
I’ve always wanted to be one of those “cool” moms as seen on TV. You know the ones? They wear their skinny jeans while they feed the kids chocolate chip cookies and milk and sit and discuss their school day. Their teens run in with all of their friends, (because the mom is so cool, surely any teen would want to hang out with her), and gobble up the pizza pockets and Sunny D. (That’s the way “cool moms” say “Sunny Delight.”)
But where are the “real” moms in those commercials?
A real mom is sitting in the bathroom, and the ENTIRE family is standing outside of the bathroom door asking “URGENT” questions like,
“What are we having for dinner?”
“Have you seen my book?”
“Doesn’t HE have to put the dishes away today, because I already did it TWO TIMES YESTERDAY!!”
A real mom doesn’t realize till dinner that her shirt has been on inside-out all day.
Real moms have library books that they have paid for three times, thinking one day they’ll find it.
Real moms lose socks in every load.
Real moms go to the store for milk, and come home with seven things…and no milk.
Real moms fit four little people (preferably her kids) with her in one bathroom stall in the airport.
Real moms know what the code for “lost toddler” is on the Kohls intercom. (Thank you, Kohls, for handling us real moms.)
Real moms wonder if their hair can last one more day unwashed without attracting a social worker’s inspection.
Real moms know evolution can’t be true or else she’d have seven arms by now.
Real moms have the super power of finding things in the fridge that aren’t even at eye level.
Real moms can listen to the conversation behind them while talking to the one in front of them.
Real moms know how to hide the green beans under the bananas on the baby food spoon, can distinguish their baby’s cry in a nursery full of screamers and recognize the meaning behind every cry: hungry, hurt, or trying to get brother into trouble.
Real moms stop and blow bubbles.
A real mom has Good Night Moon memorized, even if her youngest child is eight.
Real moms know how to read aloud in characters’ voices in bedtime stories.
Real moms spend hours…or days…distraught over their children’s behavior.
Real moms leave knee prints in the carpet.
Real moms live life at the speed of their slowest child – even the special needs one.
Real moms hurt when their children hurt.
Real moms are sad when their kids leave for college…or kindergarten.
Real moms sometimes fall in bed at night, not fitting into their skinny jeans, second-guessing their every word to their kids that day, and wondering if tomorrow will be any different.
Real moms have days when they think they will party when the last goldfish dies.
And real moms shed a tear when it does.
Because when the last goldfish dies
It means the child has grown up a bit
“Back-scratching times” are almost done.
Bedtime stories are about to be silent.
The misspellings on the funeral invitations may almost be over.
Childhood appreciates after it is gone.
When the last goldfish dies, so does a little bit of childhood; and I suppose it is buried alongside a little bit of the “real mom-hood” that goes with it.
– back to being a real mom,
Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: