At Julianne's school, there is a gold fish affectionately known as Bubbles. Though I generally have no feelings one way or the other regarding Bubbles, Jules is moderately fond of him. Because I care about the things Jules cares about, then by default I care about Bubbles.
Jason's mom, Sharon--whom you may remember is Julianne's preschool teacher--asked us if we would take care of Bubbles during Christmas vacation. Grandpa Chuck and Grandma Sharon are gone all this week to visit their newest granddaughter in Rhode Island (and, also, her parents will get an obligatory "hello" out of the visit), so someone needed to feed and entertain the fish.
I don't know exactly what goes into entertaining fishes. I say "good morning" to him every day, tap on his tank and wave, and if I'm feeling especially generous, I sing him a song. I sing songs to the stuffed snow man in our office, so it's the least I can do to brighten Bubbles' day.
The day we brought Bubbles home from school, his small globe-shaped tank was clean and full of fresh water. We wouldn't need to do any cleaning during his two-week stay in our home; it would be an easy fish-sitting job.
The morning following Bubbles' first night at our house, the girls were anxious to feed him. Following the directions from Jason, Sydney dropped in a few flakes, and then Jules dropped in a few flakes.
Jules wanted to drop in a few more flakes--feeding fish is oh so entertain after all--but Jason told her no.
"Don't give him anymore food, Jules."
"But I want to!" I heard her say.
"No, Julianne. No more food."
I was folding clothes in the other room, and so I didn't see how it all went down, but evidently Jules--who is really good at being affectionate, but less good at obeying--decided to give the fish more food anyway. And so, quicker than Daddy could stop her, half a can of fish food found its way into the fish tank.
I heard a groan of despair from Jason, followed by the quick thumping of Jules' feet as she tore down the hall hoping to avoid any sort of consequences.
Jason quickly tried to scoop out the excess fish food, but most of the food floated down to the bottom of the tank anyway and the once clear water took on a rather murky cast. I figured that Bubbles could just live in his dirty tank for his two-week stay, but Jason was afraid Bubbles wouldn't survive if we didn't clean the tank.
And so Bubbles was air-lifted into a temporary home, and Jason cleaned the tank.
Through all this, I wasn't fully paying attention. Jason seemed to have it under control, and so I continued folding clothes. It occurred to me after a moment that I should remind Jason not to put Bubbles immediately back into the tank because the water would need to settle and go flat. We have city water, after all, and the fluoride and trace amounts of chlorine wouldn't be good for Mr. Bubbles.
"Be sure not to put Bubbles back in the tank," I hollered down the hall.
"What?" Jason hollered back.
I walked towards the kitchen to tell Jason, and saw, to my horror, that Bubbles was already back in the tank with fresh water.
"Oh no!" I said.
"Bubbles can't go back in the tank yet! It'll kill him!" And sure enough, poor Bubbles was already showing signs of difficulties. He'd rise to the surface, then quickly sink, then rise, and finally started the tell-tale signs of listing to the right.
"Well! I didn't know that!" Jason lamented. In a stroke of bad timing on my part, I decided that this was the teachable moment the discuss the ins and out on caring for fish. Needless to say, Jason wasn't especially thrilled with my lecture. And when Sydney and Jules walked in and asked what was wrong with Bubbles, Jason exclaimed in frustration, "Bubbles is going to die."
Sydney burst into tears, and I then I started crying and quickly reassured her that Bubbles was not going to die.
"No. He's not going to die. We're going to save him." I didn't know how we were going to save him, only that we would.
Jason called his mom who told him that, no, Bubbles could not survive in city water. He was accustomed to the school's well water. "It's okay," she said. "It's just a thirty-nine cent gold fish."
But Bubbles wasn't going to die. Not today anyway. Not on our watch.
Jason needed to act quickly and decided that the spring water that we use for the garden would be a good substitution for well water.
He grabbed my best and largest glass measuring bowl--"Don't break it!" I yelled after him--and ran outside into the rain to get spring water.
Except that it had been pretty cold, so my dad had turned off the outside water to protect the pipes from freezing. No water at the pump house.
He then ran back up the hill, carefully making sure not to spill the water, and burst into the house soaking wet carrying 8 cups of un-poisoned water.
The water was very cold, so I attempted to warm it up in the microwave, but we were afraid that at any moment Bubbles was going to bubble belly up, so after 30 seconds we aborted our warm-up plan and quickly scooped Bubbles up and dropped him in the measuring bowl.
He sat on the bottom of the bowl, hardly moving. Every so often I would see his mouth move the smallest amount, but it seemed that the water temperature had shocked Bubbles into hibernation. We waited.
Eventually, as the water started to warm up, Bubbles started to move his fins a bit, and by the late afternoon, he was swimming happily around the measuring bowl. Bubbles had survived.
"Bubbles is alive!" I cheered to Sydney and Jules.
"Okay," they said, and went back to playing with their princesses.
With the help of a measuring bowl, a creek, and a daddy with strong legs and lungs, we saved Bubbles. Not every day do we get to bring a fish back from the brink of death, but that Saturday morning we did.
Merry Christmas, Bubbles. Merry Christmas.