Tonight, as I headed toward my computer to write my nightly one thousand words, I called out to my mother, “What should I write about tonight?”
Without a pause, she yelled back, “fish.”
Normally when she suggests a random blog topic, like fish, I laugh and write about something else entirely.
But not tonight. Tonight I have a fish tale to tell…
I grew up in an apartment house in the middle of a small village. Except for said apartment house, it was a lovely, quintessential small New England village.
The village was located at the crossroads of a couple of streets and was aptly named Hartland Four Corners.
The apartment house was located right on one of the corners.
Next to the apartment house was a dirt road and on the other side of that road, located on another of the four corners, was the village post office.
The post office was housed in the front room of Mrs. Porter’s very old home. Above the post office door was an enclosed balcony. Rumor had it that the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad and the balcony was where the slaves hid.
Inside the post office, the front room was set up with mailboxes — combination, not key – and a window where you bought stamps and picked up packages. If you looked through the window, you could see Mrs. Porter’s kitchen. Her living room was through the folding door on the left.
In back of the apartment house was a babbling brook. As kids, we would toss sticks into the brook and run across the bridge to see how quickly they got to the other side.
The other roads around the apartment building were lined with nice old houses, some well taken care of and some not.
Just up the street was a small white church with stained glass windows and beside it sat a tiny white church, the size of a playhouse. I never knew the story of the playhouse church, but it always fascinated me.
But the best part of the village was the little one room library that sat on the third of the four corners. The inside was barely big enough for some bookshelves and a desk. All the books were old.
On the lawn of the library was a giant evergreen tree. I could see both the tree and the library from my bedroom window.
At Christmas, the tree had lights on it. Mr. Driscoll, who lived next door, would go out every night and plug them in. I never saw him unplug them, but they were always off when I got up, so he must have.
The only thing I miss about living in that town is that Christmas tree.
But this story is supposed to be about fish, not Christmas trees.
One summer, the library decided that it would hold a pet show and contest for the neighborhood kids on the lawn under the big tree.
Growing up, we always had cats. There was Buffy, who ate some poison somewhere and went crazy on our porch before running away. (At least I was told he ran away. Now I wonder if that was my mom’s version of ‘we took Fido to live on a farm.’).
Then there was Tuffy, who was already named when we got him so you can’t blame me for the rhyming names. And then there’s was BJ, a strange little girl tiger cat. And then Bear who was named Bear because we all ready had BJ and BJ and the Bear was a popular tv show at the time.
I’m sure there were others I’m forgetting, but the point is I could have taken a cat to the pet show.
But I decided to take my two goldfish, Laura and Almanzo. I was obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books as a girl. My goldfish’s names reflected that obsession.
So I took Laura and Almanzo in their little bowl across the street to the pet show.
Just picture a little fat girl, wearing two braids tied with ribbon at the top and the bottom (I could paste in a school picture here that would make you cringe), standing under a giant evergreen tree, holding a goldfish bowl and surrounded by kids with cats, dogs and gerbils.
This was the kind of pet show that is now getting blamed for kids growing up with an inflated sense of entitlement. In other words, every kid got a prize. We were all winners.
So the little fat girl (me) stood under the tree with her literary fish watching kid after kid take their furry pet up to receive a blue ribbon.
There was a prize for the biggest pet, the smallest pet, the cutest pet and the fuzziest pet. There was a prize for the loudest pet, the blackest pet, the whitest pet and the friendliest pet.
Just as I was getting ready to give up and take my two little goldfish back across the street to our apartment, the librarian said they were going to announce the prize for the wettest pet.
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to you that Laura, Almanzo and I won. But I remember being genuinely surprised. I guess I didn’t realize that everyone was going to win something.
I took my fish up to the front of the crowd and the librarian taped our blue ribbon right onto the fishbowl.
I was so proud of that ribbon. I had the wettest pets in the entire village of Hartland Four Corners!
I really don’t remember much else about Laura and Almanzo. Goldfish don’t live to be very old, so I’m sure they weren’t with us for long. And there were probably many goldfish after them.
But I will always remember that one summer afternoon, when two goldfish and a kind librarian made one little girl with two braids very happy.
And that, my friends, is my fish tale.