At last weekend's Township Day, my oldest kid won a goldfish by throwing a pingpong ball into some sort of small receptacle. The goldfish, promptly named "Goldie" (guess who named it?), took up residence at my in-law's house. This is right and just for a few reasons. First of all, we've already got three kids and a bunny, not to mention a husband who used to be a neat freak but now isn't nearly as tidy as he likes to think he is (shh -- don't tell him that). So taking care of another living creature, even a measly fish, ain't gonna cut it. Second, the one who would ultimately be taking care of it, a.k.a., Me, isn't a big fan of fish for pets. If I'm going to clean up after something else and feed it, it better have fur and be available for a cuddle. (Hence, the husband.) Okay, call me speciesist, but that's how I feel. Pets that don't resemble plush toys need not apply. Finally, and perhaps most delicious to the parents, it's high time the in-laws dealt with the emotional ramifications of something like a goldfish.
Sure enough, by yesterday, poor Goldie had already up and died.
My mother-in-law called Tom in a tizzy. (She doesn't get out much.) She plans to go to the pet shop and buy another goldfish. She is concerned that our oldest will be devastated at the loss of dear Goldie. My mother-in-law simply doesn't appreciate the peculiar hard-heartedness of kids. They can cry for an hour because you threw some crappy plastic Happy Meals toy away, but take the death of the family cat without batting an eyelash. (I, on the other hand, had to be sedated after the loss of my dear kitty and still get misty sometimes when no one is watching.) So I'm not at all convinced that the kid is going to give a rat's ass about the goldfish.
My mother-in-law also forgets the incredible powers of observation and memory that my oldest has. This is the kid who, at the age of four, shut my fretting father up when he was dithering about whether he could find his way from our house to my in-law's for some family get-together: "It's easy, Poppop. You go North on Route 476 -- that's the Blue Route -- for a few miles and get off at exit 19. Go right -- that's east -- on Ridge Pike and then after you pass the high school, make a left on [Blank] St. The house number is XXXX."
Is some spurious stand-in goldfish gonna fool this kid?
My mother-in-law is already thinking about what to tell him if he notices the fish looks different. "If it's a different size, I'll say Goldie grew," she decided. "If it has different stripes or spots, I'll just say it faded."
As Dr. Evil would say, "Ri-i-ight."
But, God, it sure is nice for this to be someone else's problem.
A Bookworm's Progress: April
Geez, this dyeing thing sure is cutting into my reading time.
1. The Bounty, Caroline Alexander. This book got a lot of good press, but maybe I should start getting my book reviews from People magazine instead of the New York Times. Slow, with mind-numbing detail ("Captain McSealegs, who was the son of Elvis McSealegs and his Belgian showgirl wife Nan Tucket, and the grandson of Lord Wellington's third wife's second cousin, Colonel Wobbly McSealegs, was, in an uncanny coincidence, the brother of the nephew of the gardener of Fletcher Christian's brother Edward, who travelled with the woodmaker who turned the masts of the Bounty herself."). Let's just say I skimmed. A whole lot.
2. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. From a soporifically slow historical novel to a contemporary memoir that captures raw grief with painful immediacy.
3. A Death in Belmont, by Sebastian Junger. The author of The Perfect Storm. Thought-provoking analysis of a murder in the Boston suburb where Junger grew up, set against the backdrop of the Boston Strangler serial killings.
4. Blue Blood, by Edward Conlon. Only a chapter in, but enjoying this. Conlon is a Harvard-educated NYC cop. He writes about his experiences (well, at least so far) with skill and power. What say you, Lars?