When I was little — well, younger, as I was never little — I had an amazing fish tank. My father helped me get it all together. It was a beautiful aquarium equipped with a filter, lovely plants, beautiful rocks on the bottom, some sort of man in a scuba suit — the whole nine yards. I would change the filter and feed my finned friends. They all had names, even if all of the black mollies looked alike, and so did the guppies and the neon tetras.
When I discovered that some of my fish were pregnant, my dad and I bought little holding tanks for the babies so the other fish wouldn’t eat them. It was a really cool thing to observe. I was always hoping to watch the guppies deliver, since you could see the teeny tiny babies in their bellies, but I never caught the miracle — I only saw it after the fact. I was also grateful not to be a fish so I wouldn’t be eaten by my parents…
As a grown up, the only pets we have had in our home were some unlucky goldfish that never lived very long. We tried, but were very unsuccessful. This past summer, son #3 bought one of those Beta fish for his bunk in camp. We met him on visiting day (the fish, son #3 we know quite well, thank God). It was so hot in that bunk that I was surprised the water in the tank didn’t boil. Miraculously, Moby the fish survived the whole summer and the bus ride home from camp. Yes, Moby lives with us now in the kitchen. It is amazing what great care son #3 takes of him. That is one of the mysteries of parenting — how your kid can be responsible about something that means something to him, but ask them to bring cases of water in from the car and nobody is home. Unless that just happens in my house.
In any event, son #3 wants another kind of pet. He knows about my impending loneliness when he leaves for Israel next year, so he is all for us getting a dog. But that probably is not happening. The other day, we went into Petco, the pet supplies store next to Staples, and we observed all of the different non-dog pet options. Immediate and firm “nos” went to rats, mice, hamsters, and any other rodent related yuckiness. No offense, rodents. It’s enough that some annoying chipmunks ate my driveway, I am certainly not welcoming one of their relatives into my house voluntarily.
And then there were the birds. “C’mon mom, let’s get a bird! Look how nice they are! Look at all of the different cage options! They could fly around the house!” I suddenly had a flashback to 15 years ago. I was taking my dad to Virginia to visit my grandmother and when I left the house, someone came by to drop something off. Husband #1 opened that door and a bird flew into our house. To this day, I am terribly disappointed that I missed this particular adventure. He must have called me more than a hundred times with updates. “The police won’t come to help me.” “The fire department won’t come to help me.” “I tried to get it out with a broom, but I knocked a lamp over.” “It flew into son #1’s room so I closed the door because I want to eat lunch.” “Animal control won’t help me.” Eventually, he got the bird out.
But standing back in Petco, all I could think was of a bird flying around the house. I told son #3 that I would think about it. Wouldn’t you know it, the next day, on Teaneck shuls, someone was looking for a babysitter for their two parakeets while they were away for the holidays. This was the perfect opportunity to see if son #3 was ready for a bird of his own. We changed their water, their food. We spoke to them. We sent the owners proof of life photos and we miraculously did not kill them. Oh wait, when I say “we” I meant “me” because though he was all excited about the first time we went there, he was less enthusiastic the second time, and by the third time, football season had started, so that was the end of that.
Needless to say, we are not getting a bird. I will just have to find another way to stave off the loneliness next year…
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck doesn’t know if Jolly Rancher and Banana Bread’s owners read her column. She hopes, if they do, they liked it.