Saturday, August 23, 2008

Little Creatures

Last spring we raised butterflies. This year, with the gas and food prices the way they are, we decided to be economical and go to the pond for some free tadpoles. We went to Gibson pond in Lexington. This is a sizable pond that from the 1930s to the 1970s was a Lexington-teen hot spot. The pond had a dock, a diving board, and a swing set in the water. It also had a pavilion which was considered the best place to dance in Lexington. It was closed in the 1970s but reopened just a few months ago.

The new park doesn’t have a pavilion, but remains of the original dock and diving board still lean in the water opposite the main park which has covered picnic shelters, a boat dock, and bathrooms. It also has swings—but these are
on land for the more fragile 21st Century child.

We sucked nearly a hundred tadpoles into our empty Diet Coke bottle, 85% of which, for some reason, stopped moving before we made it home. For four weeks we fed them boiled lettuce and watched as they grew from the size of a seed with a tail to the size of a pea with a tail. After a few weeks they got bigger, grew leg bumps, grew legs, grew arm bumps, then arms. Then they died. It was tragic. After the third one with arms died we decided to take them down to our neighborhood pond and let them go.

We released them into a shallow puddle and said goodbye. There was a family fishing from the dock. A boy, having two small turtles under a net, drew all of our attention away from the happy polliwogs. It also distracted us from the white duck determinedly heading toward and excitedly snapping at the shallow puddle. I didn’t mention the situation to children.

So it goes.

After the tadpoles retired I thought we would use the goldfish bowl for a real goldfish. Thankfully LMark’s birthday was coming up so I could disguise a family pet as a gift for him. Everyone was excited about the fish, which promptly died a few days after the excitement waned.

Margaret’s birthday was in August. She handed me a list in July (not a normal thing for her to do) of all the toys she wanted for her birthday. I groaned. All junk. Instead, I decided to broach the idea of a hamster with Fr Mark.

Absolutely not. Period.

Oh well.

So I decided to wait a few days and frame my argument a little more practically. I showed him the list of junk she had asked for. Ugh. So we have a hamster.

We knew she would name it something unusual. As we were driving from the pet store I told Margaret how I used to have two hamsters. They were named Chevrolet and Bendix after Ramona Quimby’s two dolls. Beezus, Ramona’s older sister, thought her doll’s names were ridiculous because one was named after a car and the other after soap powder. But, as I told Margaret, Ramona thought the names were beautiful, so she didn’t care.

After a few moments Margaret said, “I think I want to name him Off-ten.”

We verified this: “Often?”

“Off-ten,” she said, “Like ‘We eat lunch often—but with a T—Off-ten.”

Fr Mark & I tried to quiet our snickers as Margaret, thoroughly pleased with the name, smiled as she held the new member of our family in his box and watched the landscape pass by.

Today Max caught a toad. He carried it around for more than an hour. He bounced it on the trampoline, made tunnels for it in the freshly cut grass, and then stuck it in the bird feeder. Max and Ella then hung it from the bird feeder hook outside my kitchen window as they ate lunch.

When lunch was over I caught Max running erratically around the house, leaping and grabbing the air. He was trying to catch a fly to feed to his toad still staring wistfully from the bird feeder through my kitchen window.


I smashed the fly and told Max to let the toad go.

I am no fun.

Update: I just found this photo of our tadpoles. The first one, upon distinguishing himself by growing kneecaps we named "Kneecaps McGee."