What parent doesn’t look forward to a school event that practically guarantees each kid a live animal as a prize? Hooray for the Winter Carnival!
This cherished occasion is held each year on a bleak Friday evening, where, instead of getting the kids ready for bed, you can be mucking about in the frozen slush, hoping the fish clutched in a Ziploc® bag doesn’t die of frost before you get to the car. Gosh, what fun.
You can just imagine how abuzz with anticipation the parents were at Friday afternoon pick-up.
“Luckily they’re just feeder fish and they usually don’t make it through the night.”
“I don’t say anything to the kids about the festival. So if they forget, then we don’t have to go.”
My kids, unfortunately, remember everything. Except, of course, important things, like homework or whatever they came into the room to ask me. But for stuff like this? Their minds are like lint traps. There was no out for us.
The moment the doors opened, parents were already checking their watches. Us included. And laying down the law to the kids: “No fish. We’re not going home with fish again this year.” Us included. We could not possibly stress the importance of this enough.
Which is why, within minutes, we had two bagged fish at our table. Prizes for dropping a clothes pin in a bucket or from some other such makeshift game gleaned from a rosier parenting blog than mine. My eye twitched. I looked around for an inattentive parent, to see if I could slide our fish bags in among theirs. That’s when I noticed our children’s names written on the bags. In permanent marker. Some formerly inattentive parent must have complained about getting dumped with someone else’s anonymous fish in years prior. On the bright side, we did not have to adopt the fish labeled “Marty” that had miraculously appeared next to ours.
“Last year, we had one that died overnight and one that lasted a week,” was the refrain we’d hear from parent after parent, each of them wearing the same look of grim resignation. Many shared dark fantasies, which I cannot print without fear of the fine folks at PETA going all Charlie Hebdo on me.
One, however, didn’t look like she was fantasizing. “A couple drops of bleach,” she whispered conspiratorily under furtive eyes.
“Don’t let your kids name them for at least two days,” another mom noted. “They don’t cry as much if they haven’t named them yet.” Sound advice.
But I could take the crying for a night or two. What I couldn’t take was another year of fish. We brought home three a couple years ago. One died overnight, another after a week, per the standard refrain. But another lived for a full year. We had to get a tank, little pebbles, a filter. And ear plugs for the filter’s ceaseless buzzing. I don’t want to have to live through that again.
It’s been four days now. Our fish were not among the many, many that “accidentally” got dropped or spilled on the way out of the Winter Carnival. Ours survived the icy walk to the car and adapted just fine to their new glass-serving-bowl home on the kitchen table.
Names have been given. Annabeth and Imy-or-Amy are still going strong.
So, what the heck. What’s another year of my life? This is the year I planned to get out of the house more, isn’t it? Maybe the buzzing of that blasted filter is just the kick in the butt I need.