Last night while I was making dinner and Bill was mashing up mint leaves to make us some mojitos, Julia came upstairs and asked if she could have a cup of water. I asked what she needed it for, but she just went over to the drawer where we keep all the plastic (i.e. child safe) cups and started looking on her own.
A moment later she was showing Bill why she wanted the cup. “Look,” she said, and held up her hand. She was holding an escapee from Bill’s 55 gallon fish tank in the basement. Another of the hatchet fish had gone over the wall only to discover that no, the water isn’t clearer over there, in fact, there is no water – only beige carpeting.
The fish was dry and stiff.
Bill told her to hang on a minute and he’d flush it, but she backed up, slightly horrified, and said no, clutching the fish in her tiny hand.
“Okay…you don’t want to bury it? Hey – go throw it on the compost pile.”
Around that point Alex came upstairs to see what was going on.
“Look,” Julia said somberly. “A dead hatchet fish.”
“Can I hold it?”
“Just for a MINUTE!”
“Mom, Julia won’t let me hold the hatchet fish!”
“Julia,” Bill interrupted, “Let Alex hold the fish. Alex, you need to give it right back.”
“JULIA” Alex spoke loudly and sternly. “Remember – IT’S NICE TO SHARE!”
(And what was I doing, besides trying to record all this in my head so I could write about it later? I just stood facing the stove, cooking my little quesadillas and mini pizzas for dinner, and trying not to laugh too much.)
I guess Alex got to hold the stiff little fish for a moment because the bickering stopped. Alex gave the fish back and went off to wash his hands, and Bill told Julia to go put the fish on the compost heap.
So out the door she went.
A bit of time went by and Julia hadn’t come back in, so I looked out the kitchen window and noticed that she was crouched down by the sprinkler (it was off). She kept leaning forward, like she was trying to drink from it or something, and I called out to her to ask what she was doing. She just looked at me and kind of backed up a bit.
A couple minutes later she was still out there. This time she was in the pool. With her little plastic watering can. Which had water in it. And Julia was holding it up and peering into the water in the watering can.
And I thought, okay, she’s still trying to revive the fish.
Sure enough, the fish was inside the watering can. At first she couldn’t find it because it had become stuck to the inside wall and she couldn’t see it. But Bill sloshed the water around, loosened the fish, and we were back to where we were originally.
Julia didn’t want to put the fish on the compost. So Bill said “Come on, we’re going to bury him.” Into the bathroom they went. Bill put the fish in the toilet, and (and I’m listening to all this from the kitchen) then he apparently took a couple of sheets of toilet paper and said to Julia “Now we’ll give him a little blanket…okay, now say goodbye…” And – flush.
Except – the fish didn’t go down. It was so light it just stayed at the top of the water and refused, somehow, to get caught in the little whirlpool and dragged into the great fish tank in the sky.
Several times, Bill tried to flush the little thing, and no dice. So we let it hang out there a while. I thought maybe, somehow, if it absorbed some water, it would go down easier. No, Jayne, that doesn’t work.
Eventually, the fish did cross over to the other side. I’m not going to elaborate.
But we kept thinking about Julia, and her initial request for a cup of water. She is such an independent “I can DO IT MYSELF!” little girl…she didn’t bring the fish up and ask for help. No, she was going to take care of things on her own.
Sometimes it can be aggravating – her wanting to do everything herself. For one thing, there are some things she just can’t do – either because she’s too small, or because I don’t want her frying her own eggs just yet. But oh, she wants to do everything. And I have to remind myself to take a breath sometimes and step back, and marvel at all the things she CAN do, and how determined she is to at least try to do everything else in her little world. I have to remember that sometimes, even if it’s inconvenient for me, I need to let her do things – things I would do far more quickly – because it’s good for her to try, and fail, and try another time. I want her to be independent and capable.
And I delight in her sweetness. When she’s not hitting her brother with a whiffle ball bat, she’s a very caring, compassionate and thoughtful little girl. She carries bugs and worms so carefully in her tiny hands, so as not to smush them.
And she tried to bring a hatchet fish back to life.