Sunday, November 23, 2008
When I was about 8 or 10, Mum told my brother and I over breakfast that there'd been a death in the family. Cereal spoons paused in mid-air. We went through our list of pets, which at that point in a child's life is always lengthy. It wasn't my gerbil, it wasn't my brother's gerbil, it wasn't their myriad (named) babies. It wasn't even the stray carrier pigeon which had taken to 'resting' on our back steps for the last couple of weeks.
We racked our brains, and I started to get worried.
'It's not Dad is it?'.
If you know her, you know my Mum is not exactly effusive, and having gone through our list of nearest and dearest fluffy creatures, he was the only available candidate.
Well, obviously it wasn't. Not even a Mancunian mother is that heartless. It was a goldfish, I'm not sure we even had a name.
Anna's beta fish on the other hand does have a name, Lester, and Lester's 'sleeping' right now on the bottom of his bowl.
Lester was a present from Anna's Nani, for Anna's first Easter which would have made him about 3 years old. It was a daunting to add another creature that required regular nurturing to a household already straining to cope with a doddery old guinea pig and a demanding 9 month old. Yet despite almost pathological neglect, Lester thrived. We tried to remember to feed him regularly, we even washed his bowl out once or twice, and he kept puttering along, much to Anna's delight. He even survived her increasingly inquisitive toddler and pre-schooler stages. He was frequently given 'apple juice to drink' or goldfish crackers were found bobbing on the surface of his bowl. She would introduce 'friends' or 'treasures' to his bowl - small plastic creatures or even worse, unsterlised beach glass and shells. More often than not though he would be found swimming for his life as she attempted to 'pet' him.
Lester was a survivor, until last night. We haven't broken it to Anna yet. Should you confront a 3 year old with the realities of death? Should he just disappear? We're not mad enough to replace him. Our household budget could barely stretch to those 4 pellets a day. Should we have an elaborate flushing funeral? Suggestions are very welcome as she's going to get a tad suspicious pretty soon - even Mummy doesn't sleep that long.