In memoriam: Orange, Swimmer, Flower and Crawly the Ant

July 16, 2015

During my decade-long career as a journalist/marketing copywriter/social media manager, I have found myself on the creative end of some pretty interesting projects. Editorial content often requires interviews and photo shoots and behind-the-scenes tours, to really get to the guts of the story. As a result of these endeavors, I have accumulated an impressive array of trinkets and trophies: A bottle of water from a natural spring, green tea-flavored liqueur, leggings with faux leather patches on the insides of the legs, and, the gift that brings us to this post, a quartet of goldfish.

About a year ago, I was in the photo studio interviewing a coworker for a blog feature. Vases of goldfish looked on as I asked her to disclose what she carried in her handbag and what her spirit animal might be. Finally, in spite of my best efforts to avoid eye contact, someone suggested I take a fish home. “The girls will love it!” they urged. You see, these goldfish were orphans; leftover props from a fashion photo shoot, and if no one gave them a tank to call home, their future looked pretty bleak. Against all my better judgement, and just as my mother the animal rescuer taught me, I rolled up my cardigan sleeve and fished two little guys out of a flower vase. I later went back for two more.

Thrilled with their new friends, the chicks settled on the names Orange, [Fish] Swimmer, Flower and Crawly the Ant, respectively. They fed them a pinch of flavorful flakes when asked, and checked in on them from time to time. Everyone was thriving … until Monday night. It was the commentary every parent dreads from the day they transfer that $.25 pet from the bag to the tank. “Mom, that fishy isn’t swimming. I think he’s caught in that plant, Mama! He is! He’s caught and there’s blood on him!” Spike screamed with great concern. I looked over at Hank and he made the universal thumb-across-the-jugular gesture to confirm that we had, in fact, lost a fish. Now, before I go on to this next part, it must be said that my reaction was for my children, more than the free goldfish that had taken up residence in my dining room.

We said it was Orange (because heaven forbid it was Crawly the Ant you guys, seriously. Any fish but Crawly the Ant), and assembled around the potty for a proper burial. Henry played a funeral hymn on his harmonica, as the ladybugs gathered around the petite corpse of their former friend. He leaned down and grabbed the handle of the net, like a solemn pallbearer, and placed Orange in his final resting place. (Well, until he flushed him and then he really went to his final resting place.) The second the handle triggered the whirlpool, the girls lost it. Tears and screams of mourning. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t shed a tear. I really did.


Hank explained it was time for Orange to go back and swim with the big fish in the river. A few minutes later, after this concept had a chance to marinate in her mind, Spike spoke: “Mom, he came from the water, and we shared our home. He came from your work, but, Mom, this is how God made the world. He has to go back to his home so he can be alive again. But, Mom … how is there a river in our potty?” Really, truly, a valid question.


Before bed, she told Hank, “Actually, I think that was my friend Crawly the Ant. My sad face won’t go away.” And the next morning, that she “woke up in the middle of the night and there was a fish tank on the floor and Crawly the Ant came back alive and lived forever.” Grief is a process. This morning, we lost the rest of our school of swimmers. That pesky pH balance can really deliver a blow.


In honor of happier times, let’s look back on our first morning with our dear pets: Orange, Swimmer, Flower and, of course, Crawly the Ant. Thank you, dear finned friends, for swimming on the sidelines of our lives for approximately 375 days. You will be missed.



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1 Comment

  • Reply Ashlie July 17, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    “Mom, this is how God made the world. He has to go back to his home so he can be alive again.” You have some wise little humans there in that house! Life in a nutshell 🙂

    Also, I vividly remember that green tea treat in a bottle you’re referring to. That stuff was delicious!

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