I've always loved keeping fish and fish tanks (in stark contrast to eating them--I've always hated the taste of fish). When I was growing up, we had a 30-gallon tank for the longest time, right up until I first met Scott, actually. I loved the idea of that little cosmos in a glass box--the fish swimming around and going about their business while we watched from the outside. I always thought that our fish had distinct personalities, even--though I think this was because as a child I read too many books about animals who could talk. As a happy coincidence, it turned out that Scott had a tank, too, when he was growing up. He kept African Cichlids in his room, and loved falling asleep at night listening to the gurgle of the tank.
Back in March, the kids and I started listening to the Henry Huggins and Ramona books on CD, and L. and T. were completely taken with Henry Huggins and his guppies. "Could we get fish?" they asked. They wanted fish--and gallons of them. For weeks we talked about guppies and fish, and Scott told stories of the African Cichlid tank he had when he was growing up. I told stories about the 30-gallon tank we'd had forever, it seemed, and how much I enjoyed cleaning it with my dad, and how my sister and I would lug the piano bench into the hallway and sit and watch the angelfish and the swordtails, and the funny spotted catfish.
"We've GOT to get fish!" the kids would clamor. "We NEEEEEED them!" At the peak of all this fish frenzy, we found ourselves at the evil mega pet store chain with the kids and my mother-in-law to buy dog food. About 30 minutes later, we found ourselves leaving the store with a 10-gallon tank (have you noticed that when you take generous grandmothers places, you always leave with things you didn't fully intend to own at that moment?).
Fast forward to today, when we have a 55-gallon tank (thank you, Craigslist), a glowing monstrosity of a tank--although I mean this in the best sense--bubbling away, the water cycling its way to perfection, almost ready for the day we can put in our own African Cichlids. (Setting up an aquarium is not something you should do if you are impatient. It takes weeks and weeks of prep work before you actually can put those first little fish into it!) In the weeks it took to get to this point, we've been researching fish with the kids. We checked out library books, comparison-shopped heaters and filters, collected rocks and soaked and scrubbed them, and L. discovered a virtual fish game. It's been all fish all the time around here lately, and it's brought us together as a family in surprising ways. Scott and I spent a good part of last weekend with our arms in the tank, rearranging rocks and plants, and stepping back to survey the results with all the gusto of art critics, while the TV played away in the other room.
The best part of all this fish business is that, for the first time in our married lives, Scott and I have a hobby we can share--and, better yet, a hobby we can all enjoy. We have always had our own separate interests, and lots of interests we share together, but we've never had a hobby quite like this one--one we can both get so much out of. It's a creation we've made together--a glowing cosmos inside glass walls. We sit in the semi-dark, our faces illuminated by the fluorescent light, dreaming of all the possibilities.