True stories with a twist!

Posts tagged ‘friendship’


I didn’t want a fish. I don’t want a fish. Anything but another fish in this house. How many do we have, thanks to my husband’s hobby?

He has two salt water tanks, two fresh water tanks, and a koi pond outside. So a fish of my own was not what I longed for.

But it was my friend’s big birthday, she loves animals and critters, and I thought a small unobtrusive tank with one colorful Siamese Fighting Fish would be a cheerful addition to her kitchen. Her kitchen decor is overwhelmingly  blue, so I bought a blue one with long, sensual, diaphanous fins. She would love it.

But before I could present her with this sensational and thoughtful gift, she said to me,  “I’m tired of taking care of everything. As of this birthday I don’t want one more thing to take care of.”

Not even a little blue fish,? I think. After making her wishes so clear I can’t possible give her the one thing more she doesn’t want to take care of.

So here I am, stuck with fish-sitting HER fish for a few years. How long do Siamese Fighting Fish live? I wonder.

I call him/her (?)  Sparky and set its little tank in the center of the kitchen counter, surrounded by my white begonias and red kalanchoe. Suddenly my kitchen is quite bright and patriotic: red, white and blue! “OK, Sparky: dinner time!”, I say, as I drop one pellet at a time into the water. Sparky zooms up to the top to fetch his reward. He zeros in, flapping his little fins with joy, as he consumes each pellet.

Every morning I come into the kitchen and put the light on at the top of his tank. “Good morning, Sparks,” I find myself saying. “How are you today?”

He zooms to the top, recognizing a human presence nearby, hoping in his little fish heart that the human has a treat for him. His fins are working overtime. They remind me of a car’s windshield wipers adjusted to run at maximum speed.

It’s almost a year since Sparky’s arrival, and I notice a change in his behavior. Now when I drop a pellet into the tank he wanders around pathetically, trying to find it. “It’s up here, Sparkles,” I say reassuringly. I even tap lightly on the tank cover, trying to help him locate his food. I see him snap at something, only to watch the pellet float down to the bottom of the tank.

Sparky seems to be blind!

I didn’t want a fish, and now I have a handicapped, special needs fish. I feel sad and sorry for such an innocent harmless creature, who cannot even find his pellet of food in a tank the size of a basketball.

But Sparky is part of our family now, and he can expect good care in every way I can give it.


After a long grueling car trip to New Hampshire we found, after a while, that we exhausted our best controversial conversational topics,  discussed the year’s best movies, tired of the CDs we had brought along and lost interest in local radio programming. Everyone was bored and restless.

Our mood had to be elevated, so I suggested,  “Here’s an exercise we used to play in our seminars. Everyone take a minute to think about this. Then we’ll each take a  turn telling the group an adjective that best describes us. The point of the exercise is to prove that we don’t see ourselves as others see us.’

Mike volunteered to start. The first word he said was “kind”. This is an impartial exercise, but my jaw must have dropped. Mike, kind? Perhaps In a Ghengis Kahn sort of way. “Did you ever see Mike coach a Little League Baseball Game?”, I was tempted to say. 

The next person to take a turn was Edith. She said, “generous.” Not that I’ve particularly noticed, but Edith, generous? She holds onto her money so tightly that her knuckles are always white. Who’s the one member of our faculty who never contributes to the emergency gift fund?

Tommy followed Edith. He said “fair minded”. Tommy must be referring to the color of his hair, because nothing about Tommy is fair minded. “That bum!” he rants furiously, if a person in political office makes a decision with which he disagrees.

Marcia chimed in with, ” my word is ‘private’.” Oh, yes; Marcia is private, alright. That’s why she ties me up every time I run into her in town, grabbing my attention to gab endlessly; describing all the pettinesses and disagreements in her family.

The eyes look toward me next. It is my turn to choose an adjective that most describes me. I will be honest, unlike the others. When I tell them my word they will immediately recognize me. “My adjective,” I say, “Is non-judgmental.”

As I told the group before we started this exercise, “Nobody sees you the way you see yourself.”


They were two friends from Guatemala, young, pretty and energetic. They cleaned houses together. Every Thursday morning Maria and Carlita zipped in and zoomed in  around, chattering and giggling endlessly in Spanish as they worked their way through the dust mites.

One day as I worked in my garden I noticed two large planters overflowing with water. I hadn’t realized it before, but the planters had no drainage holes in the bottoms. Every time I had watered, the soil became more saturated, sour and putrid.

I was furious with myself for not checking the bottoms of those planters before filling them with potting soil and beautiful pink David Austin Roses.

Now what could I do? There was no choice but to empty the planters and start over again.

Maria and Carlita recognized  the problem, motioned me aside, and took command. They shoveled the ruined soil into a large wheelbarrow. Our property sits on a steep hill leading down to a branch of the Whippany River: an untamed, unused, ungardened area. Each woman put her hands on the handle and started pushing the wheelbarrow down the hill. They would dump the soil down there.

But they misjudged the steepness of the hill and the weight of the load.

As the walk became steeper the wheelbarrow rolled faster and they completely lost control of it. But they still held onto the handle. It raced down the hill, dragging them with it. Watching the scene, I was horrified. Maria and Carlita galloped alongside the wheelbarrow, struggling to get it back under control. But the wheelbarrow would not yield, not slow down, and not relinquish control.

When the runaway wheelbarrow finally came to a stop I raced down the hill, worried and upset. What had happened to them? What would I find down there? Mangled bodies? Broken bones? Blood? 

I shuddered to think.

But a shock greeted me. No screaming, crying, or cursing, as I or anyone else I know would do.

The wheelbarrow had toppled over and was lying on its side. And there they were, two friends lying in the grass, laughing as if this were the funniest experience of their lives. They shook gleefully with the joy of their bungled effort, thought it was hilarious, and fully enjoyed the humor of their misadventure.

My blood pressure probably rose at least fifty points.

THEY were enjoying the day and whatever came along with it.

No stress, no worries,  no anger.

This incident happened over 10 years ago, but it is as fresh in my mind now as it had just happened. I can still see them, rolling in the grass,  laughing.


I can’t imagine laughing at this experience if it had happened to me. I can’t imagine anyone I know who would think it was funny if it happened to them.

But why not? Why are we so starched and serious? Why can’t we see humor in  the unexpected?

I don’t know the answer to my question, but I do know that on a summer day years ago those two young women gave me a lot to think about.

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