My son, Cole, was mesmerized by fish as a child. So, as a surprise for his fifth birthday, I bought a one-gallon fish tank. A few hours before his party, I sent my husband to fetch a resident for the tank, and he came back with, “Goldfish.”
That night, as Cole stared into the water that held his new friend, I tried to casually suggest a more creative name.
“How about Goldilocks?” I asked.
“Naaa… Just Goldfish,” said Cole.
“Lots of fish are named Goldfish. What about Mango?” I tried.
“Naw… I think ‘Goldfish’,” he responded.
“Finnegan?” I begged.
“Nope. Just Goldfish,” my five-year-old said resolutely.
So Goldfish it was.
I thought it was a boring name. But then, it was probably a boring fish that was going to live a very boring life in a very small and boring tank.
How wrong I was.
A few months later, I heard, “Mom! You’ve GOT to see this!” from Cole’s upstairs bedroom. Buried behind a stack of dirty dishes, I called, “I’ll be up later!” But my husband stepped into the hall and said, “No, honey, you should see this.” Curious, I dropped the dishrag and took the stairs by twos.
The three kids were laying flat on their tummies, staring into the fish tank. This was more attention than Goldfish had received in the prior three months combined!
“Mom, look!” All three of them stared up at me in wonder. “Goldfish had babies!!!”
“Babies?” I asked doubtfully. “Are you sure they’re not just floaties? His tank hasn’t been cleaned in a while.”
“Mom, Goldfish isn’t a he,” said wide-eyed Cole in a hushed, reverent tone. “She’s a mom!”
The kids scooted out of the way and I skeptically laid down beside them to get eye level with Cole’s one gallon fish tank.
“Oh my word!” I quickly exclaimed. “Those really are babies!!” The kids giggled hysterically and started jumping around. I had confirmed what they knew to be true. We were hosting a mother goldfish and her new fry.
But how was this possible? Goldfish had been living the single life for months. The kids didn’t understand why this made her situation more incredible, but they loved the adventure of a mystery.
I vaguely remembered that some fish eat their babies, so to be safe, we put the three teensy, almost microscopic, fish in a vase on the counter in our master bathroom. This quickly became the most popular room in the house! At any given hour, two or three of us were peering into the vase, studying our babies in detail.
We named each according to ‘personality’, and the talk around the dinner table consisted of what we had seen the baby fish do today. My husband said we needed to get the babies out of the bathroom soon, because they kept distracting him from shaving at 5 am. He had been late to work three days in a row!
Our internet research baffled us further. Goldfish eggs are laid by the mom, fertilized by the dad, and hatch within hours. We felt like Mary, after the angel’s visit, as we asked in amazement, “How can this be?”
News of our magical fish and her offspring spread through the neighborhood. The kids would usher guests up to the master bath, where they’d peer into the vase, entranced in wonder. (We should have charged admission.)
Just as our fish fry were becoming famous, we had to leave for vacation. We left our babies in the care of our sweet Aunt Joy, who sometimes would house-sit for us. We gave her more instructions than we had given our first babysitter! We told her what to feed the babies, how to change their water, what to watch for, etc.
Vacation was nearly spoiled. We spent the whole time wondering how our fishies were doing. We almost felt gypped–like Aunt Joy was getting the better vacation. Upon our return, all five of us dashed to the bathroom at once.
But we stopped short, with eyes bulging and jaws dropping. To be continued…