Goldfish are fun, but you don’t want to pet them.

While I was growing up, my folks didn’t allow typical pets at their house. I might be slightly emotionally scarred from the lack of animal exposure that my life needed back in the fourth grade.

The main reason my parents put the kibosh on pets was that my brother, Uncle Fun, had severe allergies. We weren’t left with many options when it came to finding an animal that he could be around without an injection of epinephrine. Around animals, his asthma would kick in to high gear and send him huffing into a ventilator for several hours, so as a general rule, pets were out. Uncle Fun couldn’t breathe around dust, grass, pollen, mushrooms, Pakistani leather, girls, lawnmowers, oriental carpets or anything that walked. I don’t know much, but I do know this;

All the good pets can walk.

After begging and pleading to share my room with any form of domesticated creature, my mom reluctantly agreed to let me have a goldfish. The excitement was tangible. I scraped up my dollars and coins and mom loaded me into our old, square, 1984 Honda Civic and off we went down to the local pet store.

A glass bowl was purchased along with some blue gravel, a green fish net and some food that looked like flakes of dried scabs. I chose a fat, silver goldfish, gave him (her?) a name and off we went toward home. My very first pet! How I loved that useless silver fish. For about three days I watched that goldfish swim around its glass bowl. I “oohed” and “ahhed” every time it did anything that indicated a modicum of intelligence. “See how smart Sparkles is?” I asked Uncle Fun, “Sparkles knows how to eat fish-food scabs! Isn’t that smart? And watch how he sucks up that blue rock and spits it out because he realizes it’s not  food. Isn’t that brilliant?” Uncle Fun stood in my room, nodded with a look of feigned amusement and puffed his inhaler.

For five months I cared for that anchovy until one morning I woke up to him doing the backstroke atop the bowl. My spirit was crushed and I padded off to school after going through a ceremonial flushing to send Sparkles off to the Great Fish Tank in the sky. My fishbowl was empty and so was my heart. The rain fell, the birds stopped chirping and oven baked fish-sticks lost their appeal.

I learned a very important lesson as a kid. Goldish are fun, but you don’t want to pet them. Being the caregiver of a mini aquarium just wasn’t in the cards for me, and after blowing through several replacement fish, I gave them up all together.

Petless I remained, until one year on a partly cloudy afternoon, I found a small brown lizard at the park with my friends. Refusing to part with it, I hid it in a shoebox and snuck it into the back of my parent’s car. There’s nothing more thrilling to a kid than a secret lizard pet. I hid him in his box deep in the bowels of my parent’s crowded basement. Everything went well until the very next morning when I discovered him missing. The little brown lizard was nowhere to be found. Despite my accusations, neither my mom or dad would fess up to finding it and releasing it into the wild.

Which means that a 23 year old lizard is still living rent-free inside my parent’s hoarded basement. I would bet money on a 400 pound Gila monster chillaxin’ inside their air-ducts, eating pizza and watching old VHS tapes loaded with M*A*S*H episodes. Without a doubt, that reptile is guarding piles of broken junk and picking his yellow lizard teeth with the bones of dead rodents.

By now, I would have made Uncle Fun go down to our folk’s basement to flush-out the elusive monster…

But he can’t.

Because he’s also highly allergic to piles of useless crap.

All this to say that when my little kids asked me recently for pet fish and lizards, my answer was a strong NO. My track record isn’t great and I don’t need anything else around here that poops. I won’t be buying fish unless they come battered and golden. And the idea of a free-loading lizard loose in my home makes me want to punch a gopher and breathe into a bag.

The kids have assured me that they’d never put a leash on a goldfish or let a giant lizard live rent free in the garage, and I’d like to believe them.

But if they don’t stop whining for pets, I’m sending them down to play “Monster Quest” in grandpa’s basement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Santa, it’s too late to bring us trendy names, so please bring us some allergies.

Dear Santa,

My brother, Uncle Fun, got all the good stuff when we were growing up. He was the one that got the roller-blades, the bunk-bed,  and all the good allergies. Now, I’ll grant you this, food restrictions were simply not cool back in the 80’s, but they’re rip roaring trendy right now and I’m feeling a bit left out.

Not only do none of us have any riveting hipster names, like “Jansen” or “Ryker,” none of us here have any reason to read food labels. Having no food restrictions means we can’t claim, “I’m so sorry Aunt Myrtle, I can’t eat your Figgy Pudding because I’m allergic to figs,” at those horrific family get-togethers that require such atrocious pudding traditions.

You see, Santa, I believe some allergies could improve my friendships. Having severe allergies and near anaphylaxis has resulted in deeper relationships for Uncle Fun. Uncle Fun can tell who really cares about him based on how much epinephrine they store in their emergency kit at their homes, just in case he should happen to visit and accidentally pet a small Scandinavian pony standing in their dining room. By the time he was 25 years old, he had acquired a lineup 50 friends deep that claimed dibs on sticking him with an Epi-pen, should the need arise. Those are true friends right there, Santa, and those are the type of sacrificial relationships that I want too.

I’m only allergic to cats, which is rather boring and isn’t unfortunate enough to make me interesting. I’m just not trendy, and I feel a bit like an outcast. I feel entirely inadequate while meeting with other moms during play-dates or park rendezvous.

Discussing their childrens’ allergies, Amanda turns to Lauren and says “Stella is highly allergic to deep-sea-squid, shellfish, pine nuts, pine cones, pilot whales, airline pilots, bees wax, candle wax, ear wax, vanilla extract, felt, snowmen and anything the color of yellow.”

“I understand,”  Lauren replies “Atlas is allergic to anything containing the word “cheese,” any type of pickled radish, calcium citrate, all herbs, fresh fruit, spring water, toothpaste and anything pre-packaged in plastic.”

“I know what you mean,” Meghan responds, “Finley is solely a peskatarian now, and his father and I are gluten-free-Paleo-vegans.” 

The moms exchange looks of solidarity and I feel completely left out. Then I hand my kids CHEEZ-ITs and they quietly gasp, and exchange horrified glances they don’t think I can see.

My kids have been noticing the difference too. Just last week my seven year old came to me and explained the cake she wanted for her next birthday.

“I don’t want a plain old Betty Crocker cake this time,” she demanded. “I want what everyone else is getting. What I want is a gluten and dairy-free, vegan, non-soy gelatin,  formed into a cake-like shape with carob icing. I want faux gelatto made from organic, hypoallergenic Peruvian goat-milk, from goats raised free-range on a mountainside and fed exclusively with “fair-trade” acorn and hemp-flour pellets.” 

“Are you sure you want that?” I questioned her.

“Yes,” she whined, “I want it exactly like Crispin and Lavender had it, and don’t forget to decorate it with the dancing Narnian wood nymphs.”

So here we are. It appears I’m not the only one from my family trying to blend into mainstream society.

This year I’m asking for a bit of help, Santa. It may be too late to bring us vougish-mod names, but you could at least bring us some fashionable allergies and provide a reason for us to shop exclusively at Whole Foods. An extra Epi-pen or two would be nice for Uncle Fun if you happen to have some lying around somewhere.

Thanks Santa,

Sincerely, Mrs.Diaz and family

P.S. I’ll leave you some soy-free, vegan, hemp chips and a tall glass of coconut milk. I know you’re trying to blend too.