Sunday, March 27, 2011

Off to the Great Fishbowl in the Sky

It is with a surprisingly heavy heart that I report the passing of Swimmy, Kiddo's pet goldfish.  Swimmy's life came to an end at approximately 4:45 this afternoon.  I can be that specific because we'd spent the day on Piscine Death Watch, keeping vigil over the tank in Kiddo's room.

I'd noticed Swimmy seemed a bit off a few days ago when I was in Kiddo's room putting away laundry.  You see, Swimmy's typical response to catching sight of any movement in the room was to begin swimming frantically back and forth at the top of the tank in a bid to get fed (or, more accurately, fed again as Swimmy was indeed fed first thing every morning).  The other morning, however, Swimmy ignored me, choosing to stare morosely at the bottom, back corner of the tank.  I waved my hand in front of Swimmy's face, which would ordinarily elicit a response, but nothing.  I mentioned this to Hubby but he said he wasn't worried because Swimmy had been swimming and splashing (did you know goldfish like to jump? True story!) as per usual when he was reading to Kiddo at bedtime.

When we got home from church this morning, Kiddo went up to her room to change and immediately came back downstairs to get us.  "Something's wrong with Swimmy!!!" Uh oh.  Sure enough, Swimmy was sideways and sort of hovering near the top of the tank.  Swimmy did not look good.  Kiddo was really upset, to say the least, and asked us if we could take Swimmy to the vet, which, um, no.  Hubby did a 25% water change, removed all the decorative plants and vacuumed the gravel in the tank, which turned up a lot of uneaten fish flakes and led us to the conclusion that Swimmy had not been eating for at least a few days.  Double uh oh.  Hubby helped Kiddo add a dose of Stress Coat to the tank water, and then we waited and watched.  I was hoping for a miracle but not holding my breath.

Since it seemed a foregone conclusion that Swimmy was not long for this world (and sure enough, the end came within hours), we were faced with helping Kiddo through one of life's Big Lessons.  You see, we have been very fortunate in our family not to have experienced much death in recent years.  Since Kiddo was born in 2003, our only losses have been her great-grandmother (my grandmother), who died when Kiddo was 18 months old, and our old cat, Katie, who died when Kiddo was just two and a half.  She has no memories of those experiences, so in fact this pet goldfish (of no great significance in the grand scheme of things) was about to be her first true personal experience with death.

And this is why I am sad.  Not because I will particularly miss the fish.  I'm not especially fond of fish as pets (and after all, Swimmy did try to kill me) or really any pet smaller than, say, a guinea pig (and Hubby has put his foot down that we will emphatically *not* ever be getting a guinea pig).  I prefer pets with which one can interact, ideally a cat or dog.  No, I'm sad not because of Swimmy's passing, but because of Kiddo's devastation.  I know it's the circle of life and all that, and it is a lesson she needs to learn (and she did understand the concept of death in theory prior to today), but man, it is just so hard to have to witness her heartbreak and grief, even over something as inconsequential as a goldfish.

Kiddo opted for a ground burial over an aquatic burial (which is a good thing considering Swimmy's size - I feared a burial at sea would wind up with a plumber's bill for a backed up sewage line due to his rather impressive corpse) and so Hubby dutifully dug a hole in the front garden, right by the house.  Kiddo wrote a small memorial (and the tear splotches on the paper broke my heart anew):

and we tucked it into the grave with Swimmy.  Once Hubby had finished filling the grave back in, we placed a special stone on top of it, given to us by Kiddo's beloved kindergarten teacher -

because it seemed fitting.  I told Kiddo that we can buy a plant to put there too, once the planting season starts.  She likes the idea of Swimmy having flowers.

And there you have it.  Swimmy, the ginormous, carnival fish who scared large dogs and Mommies alike.  From humble beginnings

to more elaborate digs

and with a brief moment of international fame when Swimmy was a finalist in a photo competition and thus was featured on the Simon's Cat website:

Swimmy made my kid happy for four years of her childhood, and that means a lot, even if Swimmy was just a fish.

(I should note that Kiddo is already asking for another goldfish.  I mean, what she really wants is a dog, but unless the Invisible Fence Fairy pays a visit to our back yard and makes it possible to be able to let a dog out to do his/her business without requiring a human to get dressed, leash the dog up and take it out for a walk every single time it has to go, a puppy isn't happening this year.  So, we've talked about it and have agreed we'll get another fish soon...)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: "Spring" (<-- those are great, big, honking air quotes there)

These were my crocuses as of Monday morning, the first morning of Spring, when I stepped out onto the porch to see Kiddo off to the school bus:

These were my crocuses as of *this* morning, the third morning of Spring, when I stepped out onto the porch to see Kiddo off to the school bus:

And these were my crocuses as of 4pm today, and I am really wishing that my computer had a function to adequately depict great, big, honking air quotes to put around the word Spring:

It is of small comfort when our local meteorologists cheerfully remind us that the official "snow season" (<-- more GBHAQ there) doesn't end for our area until June 1st.  Or that there was snow last year on Mother's Day.  Small, cold, white comfort indeed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I might not have had Bob Ross's painting abilities, but I did have his hairstyle...

Those of you who are of increasingly advanced age, as I am, may remember the artist Bob Ross from the back-in-the-day PBS show The Joy of Painting.  

Bob used to talk in an extremely mellow and calm voice, all about the "happy clouds" and "happy trees" and how you didn't make a mistake, just a "happy little accident" and in the span of one half hour TV show, he managed to produce a pretty darn decent painting, usually a landscape, and make it look easy to boot.

Well, back in the day when the Husband was just the Boyfriend and we were poor college student types, we decided that we too could paint like Bob Ross.  Well, "we" in this scenario was actually the Boyfriend, as I've never held the faintest illusion that I could actually paint (or draw, or sketch, or pastel, or sculpt or do anything artistic that involves me using my hands and brain to reproduce something that another human being can readily identify) and this is an opinion with which many unfortunate art teachers from the early 70s through the late 80s would wholeheartedly concur.  I am most pathetically Artistically Ungifted, y'all.  But, I was swept up in his enthusiasm and agreed that this would be a fun weekend activity, so we went to the art supply store and picked up some Bob Ross painting kits.

After doing an exhaustive internet search (read: fifteen seconds with my good friend Google and then five minutes of making Hubby stop the gargantuan computer project he's been working on all weekend to turn around and look at link after link as I hollered at him "Hey, do you think this is it?  This must be it, right?  Oh, no, wait, isn't this the one?  What about this one?"), I'm fairly certain that this was the kit we bought, or it was from the same series at least, although the canvas that came with ours was much smaller (again, poor college students - we didn't have the cash to spend on a deluxe canvas set) and of "landscape" instead of "portrait" orientation.  (Well, that's the way we painted them, anyhow.)  We went back to Hubby Boyfriend's apartment and set up our project.  We worked on our canvases intently and diligently for the better part of the afternoon, finally getting to step 10 (signing our paintings with pride!) and left them to dry.  I'd like to tell you that our painting experience was as mellow and fluffy as Bob and his hair, but it wasn't.  Not even the magic of Bob Ross could turn me into a decent artist.  What should have been a glorious, snowcapped Mystic Mountain, rising up above a lake and river into a happy-little-cloud-speckled sky looked more like a hunk of moldy cheese, smoldering on a shiny salad plate.  Oh well.

Shortly after our Wild Weekend of Art, the Boyfriend upgraded to the FiancĂ© and shortly after that, we began living together.  I began the practice of proudly displaying our masterpieces side by side in our first apartment and kept the tradition up for many residences over the years, until the paintings got packed away for a move and lost to the set of Boxes One Never Actually Unpacks, but Still Moves from House to House Where They Reside in a Forgotten Corner of the Basement.  Periodically, I'd think "Hmmm, I wonder what happened to those Bob Ross paintings we did?" and even attempt a search of the BONAU,bSMfHtHWTRinFCotB but no matter how many of those dang Mystery Boxes I would paw through, it was always in vain.

Until last month, that is, when I was helping Kiddo gather materials for school project and opened up the trunk in which I have stored copies of just about every photo we've ever taken of her in the past 7.75 years.  This trunk also contains several other odds and ends in the "memento" realm, like the lock of hair from Kiddo's first haircut, copies of her birth announcements (along with approximately 200 extra prints of the photo we sent out with her birth announcement - um, what the heck were we thinking?) and many miscellaneous photos of ours taken well before Kiddo arrived on the scene.  And there, in the trunk, I found them.  The Bob Ross paintings.  Both of them, tucked away in the bottom of the trunk (which, in hindsight, seems a perfectly logical repository for them, and one I should've therefore thought of instead of one of the basement boxes), in all their technicolor glory.

I haven't hung them up again, though I just might.  I think I'd want to frame them first, which is something we couldn't afford to do back when they were created and something I never got around to in subsequent years.  We'll see if they make it up onto the wall or if they languish on top of the scanner where they've been since last month when I unearthed them.  In the meantime, however, I proudly present the Internet Unveiling of the Smiths' Mystic Mountains:

Mr. Smith's (not too bad, really):

and mine:

I'd like to remind you that theoretically, these should have looked identical to each other as well as pretty darn close to Bob's original:

But hey, if I never did quite match Bob's painting talent, at least I did once rock his hairstyle:

 (image borrowed from the Bob Ross Wikipedia entry)

(me, circa 1987)

Last but not least, I'd like to dedicate this post to my dear Aunt Becky, because she hears Bob Ross's voice in her head (along with Billy Mays, but that's neither here nor there) and because I once promised her that if I ever found the paintings, I'd share them with her.  So, this one's for you, AB!