She woke up at midnight as soon as Big Friend’s hand touched her back. She sat up. Palmed her bangs out of her face. Said, “Oh hi. We need to go into the bathroom.” Big Friend, home from a week’s business trip to Denmark, rubbed her sweaty back. Tucked her back in. Promised a trip to the bathroom in the morning. ”No, Dad,” her groggy voice insisted. ”I saved a goldfish for you. I left it in the bathroom.”
Things Little Friend likes: squishy balls, rubber things, gummy things you can eat, and goldfish crackers. Yesterday a package arrived from her savvy grandparents with a veritable sheet cake of rice krispie treats sprinkled with shamrock sprinkles. Tucked at the bottom of the package was a milk-carton box of rainbow goldfish crackers. The rice krispie treats were shoved aside, and that darn milk carton went everywhere with us for the day.
At lunch time, a sole orange fish was separated from his rainbow brothers and placed in the middle of Big Friend’s placemat. Right in front of his empty chair. A chair waiting as patiently as a Little Friend for him to arrive home. ”This one’s for Daddy,” she pronounced. Then, a bit later, “Maybe I should keep it in here for safe-keeping.” The fish went back into the milk carton. That darn milk carton went everywhere with us for the day.
I thought I’d heard the last of that goldfish.
Until bath time. That darn milk carton went everywhere with us, including the bath. I finagled it out of Little Friend’s hands just prior to the bath plunge. Setting it on the counter, it felt suspiciously empty. We did bath time. I forgot to throw away the empty carton.
I forgot all about the last goldfish.
But Little Friend didn’t. ”We have to go to the bathroom, Dad,” she insisted. Because she knew she had stashed something precious there. Something not for me. Not for her. Something saved. all. day. long. Just for him.
Overhearing midnight conversation, I peeked in the bathroom. Rattled what I thought was an empty rainbow goldfish milk carton. Something small scuttered around inside. I tilted it at an angle to catch the light, and saw it. There. In the corner. The last goldfish.
I think I know why Baby Jesus’s heart would have warmed at the Little Drummer Boy’s gift more than all the caskets of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that cracks a smile on the face of the universe. That offering of the last goldfish has tattooed a smile on my heart that heals the scratches of the normal stresses of my day. I hope it brings a warm-fuzzy glow to your heart today, too.
Beth Hendrickson is a work-from-home mom who previously tamed the chalkboard jungles of a high school English classroom with book and pen in hand and now manages to tame the homefront, provided coffee and chocolate are close at hand. She writes about living a simple, intentional life of unconditional love at Belle Squeaks.
More from parenting