Shared Stories: Love for a fish

Many of us have won a goldfish at a carnival game, and we do our best to take care of these beautiful, delicate creatures.  Yolanda Reyna recounts a touching story when one of these fish became her son’s first pet.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.

By Yolanda Reyna

Robert (my ex-husband) adjusted to life without his dog Max. After our children Reina and Li’l Robert, we had our third child, a son, Daniel. 

It had been 11 years since Max had been taken away. We all seemed to be doing fine without any pets in our lives. 

Although, when Daniel turned ten years old, he was becoming curious about animals. I can recall him watching his favorite cartoon shows, such as “Little Bear” or “Franklin.” Franklin was a cartoon show about a turtle and his family. And, no, Daniel wasn’t curious about a bear or a turtle, thank God!  Well, a turtle would have been ok!  As time went on he would often ask if he could have a puppy, and of course, I’d say NO!

One day my children and I attended a harvest festival at their elementary school. It was a lot of fun. There were games, prizes, food, and music. Daniel had played a “Toss a ring-around a bottle” game, and he’d won! 

He won a goldfish! It looked so cute in the little bag filled with water (floating around with such little space).  It was a bold orange color.  Although, I thought it looked a little blue with its mouth drooping, giving that sad expression. 

When we took it home, we found a small bowl to place it in temporarily. Daniel had a responsibility to care for his first pet fish.  The next day he and I went to the local pet store to purchase a fishbowl and some fish food. 

Every day, before Daniel ate breakfast and dinner, he’d feed his fish without being told.  I had placed the fishbowl in the kitchen where Daniel had a good clear view of the fish.  He had so much love for it.  He was showing a lot of responsibility for a ten-year-old boy.  

He’d feed the fish, watch it as it would eat, and off to school he’d go!  Sometimes, he’d just stand there tapping his little finger on the bowl.  But I had the responsibility of changing the water. That was day after day. 

Occasionally, his father, big Robert (my ex-husband) would feed the fish, not realizing it had been fed. I’d say to him, “Daniel fed the fish this morning.”

“Oh,” he’d say.

Also, I’d catch Reina and Li’l Robert feeding the fish too, and I’d say to them, “Your dad fed the fish already!”

“Ahhhh! we want to feed the fish!” they’d say.    

 At times I found myself feeding the fish, thinking it hadn’t been fed!  Even as a mother, I worry about a fish!  It seemed we all had the same love for Daniel’s fish as he did! 

One evening, as dinner was being served, Daniel raced to the kitchen to feed his fish. Surprisingly, the fish was not in the fishbowl! 

Daniel said, “Mommy, where’s my fish?” 

I looked. I said, “I don’t know!”  It was a mystery.  We looked around and the fish was nowhere in sight! 

“Well,” I said, “it couldn’t have just got up and walked away,” or more like, “It couldn’t have just jumped out of the bowl!” 

But apparently, it did! 

I noticed it lying on the floor, lifeless, underneath Daniel’s chair in the kitchen!  Not even a flap from its fin.  

As my eyes set on the fish, I said to Daniel, “There it is!” 

My God, what happened? I asked myself.  Daniel and I looked at each other in disbelief!  Either someone took the fish out or it just jumped out itself!  There was no explanation. 

The only answer I had for my son was, “Daniel, your fish wanted to be near you when you sat at your chair.”

That seemed to have pleased Daniel, being that he was only ten years old or maybe he thought his mommy was just plain crazy!  Funny, if it did jump, which it had to have, it leaped right underneath Daniel’s chair.

When I told his father, brother, and sister what had happened, they were sad to hear the news. We realized we had all been feeding the fish without each other’s knowledge.  It just seemed the fish was being overfed and jumped out of the bowl, or it just jumped out to escape it’s living conditions.

Whatever the reason was, we will never know.  It was probably screaming, “Stop Feeding Me!” Rest assured, we did have a proper burial with respect to Daniel.

In the end, knowing how much my son showed love and care for his first pet fish allowed me and the rest of the family to show love and care too!