We have a new pet fish.
It all started 6 years and 6 weeks ago. I know exactly because this was the first time I took my 20 month old and 3 week old babies out in public, alone. I decided to brave the 9 minute drive for the 22 minute story time at the local library. I had showered. I had dressed. I had timed Josiah’s feedings such that he shouldn’t have needed to eat or poop. I gave myself a nice 9 minute long pep talk on the way. ‘If Nolan strips or acts like it’s a big deal to have to wear shoes in public, I’ll just grab the kids and leave and never return.’ I had planned for this monumental event.
I wish I could tell you it was to stimulate my children with the world of literacy. But that would be a lie. First of all, my kids are not the kind of kids who need a whole lot of extra stimulation created for them. (They chased each other with pool noodles for a solid hour today. We don’t have a pool, just the noodles.) And secondly, if I have done anything on a regular basis it is read to my children. I have missed baths, blown the schedule, skipped tooth brushing, forgotten checkups, fed them processed food, and didn’t teach them baby sign language. But I wore the daylights out my rocking chair reading to my kids. The coils actually busted through the bottom.
They didn’t need story time. I needed story time.
Story time was cancelled that day.
I was so heartbroken.
I had showered. I had planned! Though I had every blessing imaginable with 2 healthy children, I was so lonely. I was really missing my Indiana friends. We had recently moved to the area, and although my entire family was here, none of them had small children (yet). Since I didn’t work outside the home, I had little opportunity to communicate with adults. Well, to communicate with anyone. Nolan was only saying 2 words at a time and Josiah and Facebook were both infants. Pinterest wasn’t even born. My days were long. Long.
Which is why I was so determined to get to story time. I needed friends.
By the abundant and amazing grace of our Living God, another mother walked in that day. She (of course) knew that story time had been cancelled and she was just stopping in to return her library books (on time). And at second glance, I realized I knew her. She was good friends with my cousin in high school and I had met her then. And she had two boys. And the thought that entered my mind was as sophisticated as a 6 year-old grade schooler,
‘I wonder if she could be my friend?’
The next several years were full of play-dates, field trips, story-times, and all-the-free-stuff-for-toddlers in the triad (and sometimes beyond). Josiah crawled for the first time on her living room floor. We’ve had family slumber parties just for fun. We’ve roasted marshmallows, milked pretend cows, and been kicked out of the library for ‘being a little loud’ with our (then) five boys (she’s got a little girl in the mix now too). Her children were the first friends my children knew. There aren’t words for those memories. There are tears. But there are no words. I can’t articulate how she has shaped my mothering and how God used that particular friendship to fill such a void in my life.
Which is the only reason I took home a fish from her son’s “county fair” themed birthday party last weekend.
I spotted those 3 little fish immediately, and immediately I asked, “what are those for?”
“They’re prizes!” she exclaimed.
“You’re giving pets? As prizes?”
“Yes, and if your kid wins one, you’ll take it home!”
“I’m not taking home a fish! I can’t feed or keep alive one more….”
And off she was. Onto organizing the games. For which the kids won tickets. And then the tickets had numbers. And my kids had done usually well (cheated) because they had like…100 tickets or something.
Well, I thought, there is no way in this world Michael Coats would allow another pet in our house, so if by chance they call a number on our kids’ tickets, I’ll just defer to him. He will not bring home a fish.
“NUMBER 18! WHO’S NUMBER 18?”
“ME!” shouted someone else’s kid.
Ha ha. Sucker.
“NUMBER 27! WHO’S NUMBER 27?”
“ME!” shouted my kid.
“You NOLAN?? IS that YOUR number?!?!? YOU GET YOUR VERY OWN GOLDFISH!!!!”
NOOOOOOOOOOO………..I screamed in my head.
And my husband turned to me with his giant blue puppy dog eyes and a smile that begged, “Aren’t we going to let our kid have a pet goldfish?”
And it was in his hand, with a smile that stretched from here to Australia and eyes as big as saucers he said, “Mom!! Meet Michelangelo! He’s my new fish!”
For crying out loud, he’d named it. I can’t refuse something with a name.
And so that is how Michelangelo/Mikey/Leo (so, apparently we haven’t exactly landed on a name) came to be the 7th member of the Coats family. And how it was that I spent the entire morning preparing his new habitat with appropriately temperatured well water that I brought gallon by gallon from my mother’s house. And why I have spent an embarrassing amount of time reading blogs like “how to keep your 38 cent gold fish from dying the first week”. I’m considering it a win if he makes it to Christmas.
And I’m dropping off a kitten on my friend’s porch next week, as a thank-you card.
I’m that thankful for her.