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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eternal Wanda

In 2000 I began teaching at a new school. There was one teacher, on her way out the door, who conned convinced me to become her classroom fish's new owner. This teacher was nine months pregnant, you see, and she didn't want the responsibility of caring for a goldfish during her early days of motherhood.

It took some time to convince me.

I hate fish.

They look weird.

AND I have an unfortunate history with them.

This teacher reassured me, "Oh, I've had her for a little over a year now. She won't last much longer. And my students really loved having a classroom pet. Yours will, too, I'm sure."


"What's her name?" I asked, and quickly discovered that my new pseudo-pet boasted the original moniker of "Fish."

Double sigh.

It took me a couple of days to reassign her with a name I could feel proud of. I expended Considerable Energy selecting a witty and simple name. After all, if I was going to lower my standards enough to own a fish, I might as well be the best fish owner I could possibly be.

The fish became Wanda.

Yes, because of THAT movie.

It took me about six months to develop loving feelings for Wanda, but I really did grow to love her. My students adored her, so much so that I once caught one of my special needs students reaching his hand into her fishbowl to pet her. Oh, how he cried when I explained he couldn't continue doing that. And don't even get me started about the day we discovered Wanda bleeding in the tank. I called three vets before finding one willing to examine her.

VET: You want to bring in WHAT?

My goldfish. She's bleeding in the tank.

VET: Ummm....

TONGGU MOMMA: You don't understand. She's really special. My whole class loves her. She's got a lot of personality.

VET: Ummm... she's a fish.

How did I become this person?

By January of 2001, I began hearing comments from parents and coworkers. "Tonggu Momma, you really need to get Wanda a new tank. She's too big for that little fishbowl."


I bought a two gallon tank. Ten months after that, I bough a five gallon tank. A year after that, Wanda graduated to a 7.5 gallon tank. Soon thereafter, I purchased a ten gallon tank. Wait a minute. Isn't this the same fish that wasn't, and I quote, "going to last much longer?"

Double sigh.

When I stopped working in 2004, just before adopting our little Tongginator, I tried to con another teacher into taking responsibility for Wanda. I loved Wanda, I did, but a ten gallon tank in a house with a cat? Ummmm....

Still, no one would take her.


Well, it seemed my little Wanda had earned a reputation. She was known around school as The Fish Who Wouldn't Die. How dare they!?!?!

I took her home with me. They didn't deserve her.

She wasn't supposed "to last much longer," but four years later here she swam, in my kitchen, inches away from a cat waiting to pounce. About two years after Wanda joined the Tonggu Household, I began hearing the comments again... from family, friends and neighbors this time. "She's too big for that tank. You need to buy her a larger one."


The moment had come to let her go. I obviously couldn't meet her needs anymore. By this time, I actually wanted to keep her, but I couldn't admit to it. I'd spent years telling everyone how much I hated her. For seven years I threatened to flush her down the toilet provide her with a burial at sea, but I was all talk. When our friend Terrapin suggested we fillet and grill her, I almost poked out his eye.

Because I loved Wanda.

Despite the fact that she was a fish.

She'd become my own Matthew 25:40 lesson. Yes, I'm paraphrasing, y'all, but not in a disrespectful way. I truly could hear Jesus whispering in my ear, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers fish of mine, you did for me." Oh, the sense of conviction.

What to do?

The Husband spent the next several weeks dropping by our favorite local Chinese restaurant, vehemently begging casually asking the manager, and later the owner, if Wanda could join their Koi Pond family. They always demurred, in that very polite, Chinese way, saying, "perhaps." I now know they worried about the koi eating a little fish like Wanda.


Finally the Husband actually brought Wanda to the restaurant to show them what we meant when we said, "she's a pretty big goldfish." Wanda joined their koi family that very day. She looked shell-shocked for the first week (we stopped by daily), but gradually she grew to love her new home. And we see her at least once a month, since she lives at our favorite restaurant.

She's happy now. I'm happy now. Even the Tongginator is happy now. The only one NOT happy is our cat Rusty, who rather enjoyed the torment of watching Wanda circle her tank.

So why am I bringing this up eight years later? I ran into HER yesterday - the teacher who started it all. She oh-so-casually asked me, "hey, whatever happened to my old fish? When did she die?"


I told her to stop by the restaurant. And then I laughed.


Sophie said...

I love it! The pet who refused to die!
I am so happy for Wanda that she has found a new home. Aren't goldfish just small carp? Maybe she could live to 100!

Briana's Mom said...

What a great story! Oh my gosh! I love that she has a new home that she is happy in!

discombobulated said...

That is one heck of a fish story. When you started writing in the past tense, I was sure she went to fish heaven, but you just gave her a new home! Glad you didn't flush her away...she probably would have clogged your toilet.

Aunt LoLo said...

Oh my goodness! What IS it with goldfish that decide to grow up into big ol' koi! You know, I didn't realize until earlier this year that goldfish and koi are really just the same thing. When I was younger, my brothers found a goldfish in a stream near our house, after a rainstorm. (We could only assume it washed out of someone's pond further upstream, since the stream was only there on really rainy days.) Since he found the fish in the rushes/grass, my brother named him Moses and brought him home. Moses kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger, finally occupying our largest punch bowl, covered in plastic wrap. (He was a suicidal, optimistic fish.) He finally met his maker while my mother was out of town - Dad forgot to replace the plastic wrap after cleaning the bowl. Poor Moses- he just wanted to go home!

CC said...

Wow. Good thing you never gave her to me!!

Do you want my 10 gallon tank now that I am "fish free"???

Shawnstribe said...

i love the fish story, ive got a chicken like that!!!!
she must be at least 8, looks old and scruffy ; ) but happy, and...refuses to die : )
thanks for popping in to my blog, and thank you for your sweet comments

Janet said...

THat is SO cool! I didn't know that goldfish would grow that big. You could have fried her up for supper! Sorry.

Special K said...

I love that story!

prechrswife said...

That is priceless! I've had fish that have lived a long time, but none of them lived that long or got that big.

Mommy Cracked said...

That's the best fish story ever! So sweet!! *sniff*