My kids want a pet. They'd like a dog but they know that's out of the question. Husband and I are not dog people, we're cat people. Okay fine, they want a cat.
This longing for a pet kind of ebbs and flows around here. My kids want one so badly for a while that they can't think of anything else. They argue over the fictional pet's name. They bring up convincing arguments, like how can we raise them their whole life without a pet? So there's this little frenzy and then, slowly, by Husband and I hemming and hawwing and procrastinating and mentioning my asthma and allergies and how Bar Mitzvahzilla's head nearly explodes every Spring with the blooming flowers, the topic winds down.
One time the excitement was so great that the kids and I went to Petsmart, looking for a pet that would be easy to care for, like a turtle. I felt we could handle a turtle. We'd had them when I was a kid in Skokie, tiny turtles that lived on a little plastic tray on our kitchen counter with a ramp winding up the middle of it to the grand surprise: a tiny plastic palm tree.
Each of our turtles got a lot of attention. First of all, there were seven sisters watching it and feeding it at all times of the day and night. Second of all, we had a dog who thought it was a chew toy, and a cat who thought it was prey. My mother was willing to put up with this to a point, but the pragmatic Holocaust Survivor in her won out every time one of these turtles would stop moving. She'd throw them out. One time one of these tiny turtles stopped moving and she didn't notice. We held an elaborate funeral.
There weren't going to be any turtles for my kids. I was quickly informed by an employee at Petsmart that you can't get those tiny turtles anymore. There are apparently a lot of laws around the whole turtle-owning issue now, so the kids and I ended up wandering aimlessly through the store, until we came upon the Beta.
I'll skip over the part of the story about how we actually had to go through about 4 fish till we found one that would live for more than a week. But when we found her - Kay the Beta fish - we finally had a pet. She was just the right kind of pet for us. No litter boxes, no walking her with a pooper scooper in hand. No highly-charged emotional relationship. The fish wouldn't be jumping around waiting to be taken for a run right after we'd come home, barking, or begging for food at the table. No. She was a fish - trapped in her bowl.
But one day after Kay hadn't been eating well for a long, long time, my husband showed up in our room while I was getting ready in the morning. He had a funny look on his face.
I said, "What's the matter?"
"It's Kay," he said.
"Is she okay?"
And he said, "I've got her in my pocket."
Honestly, even a fish was a big job for us. Feeding her, cleaning her bowl, getting my best friend to babysit her when we went on vacation, worrying about her - we just aren't sure about going through all that again. And the kids aren't settling this time: they want a pet mammal this time, one that doesn't live in water.
And my husband and I? We're just waiting for the frenzy to die down.