Monday, February 10, 2014

Sea Ponies

There has never been a time in my life that I have been without a pet. As far back as I can remember I have had a cat, or a dog or a fish or a hamster, or a menagerie of all of them at once, and I would never want it to be different.

As a kid that loved ANY kind of pet, the oddest pets I ever had were Sea Ponies. They were tiny little Sea Horses that I ordered through the mail from the back of a Teen magazine. The ad was located next to the Sea Monkey’s and the Spider Monkeys (real monkeys) that were somehow once available through the United States Postal Service, no questions asked.

I was very excited as I filled out the order blank and put it in the envelope along with a check for $9.99 plus tax and proudly licked and shut the envelope, then I licked the stamp and enthusiastically placed it on the envelope, and without another thought ran to the mailbox, slid that envelope in the box, and proudly shut the door and put the flag up.  I was so happy; I skipped all the way back to the house.

The order blank said they would be delivered in 7 to ten days. I started the 7 day count down the next day – when I got home from school and the flag was down.

Seven days later my Sea Ponies arrived enclosed in an air tight bag full of salty sea water ready to slowly release into an oblong, sea blue plastic aquarium they sent along for them to live in. (That is what my mom told me anyway.)

They were a gift for my 8th birthday present.

My birthday is in December and I live in Western New York. The weather in December is COLD.

The mail came at 10 a.m.

My mom never got the mail out of the mail box until after 1 p.m.

Needless to say, my experience with Sea Ponies was very traumatic and frankly almost never happened because they were almost frozen.

Thank goodness for salty water, it takes a long time for it to become slushy in the mail box. The cardboard box they were delivered in helped keep them from freezing too, but I credit the sea water. Had it been a different kind of tropical fish, the story would have ended at the mailbox.

When I got off the bus that day I was so excited and I remember running into the house expecting them to be there. It had been seven days, I knew, I JUST knew they would be there in seven day and not ten like the ad said.  I distinctly remember the ad saying “delivered alive in 7 to 10 days,” and I always seemed to pick the 7 days, no matter what it was.

I ran to the house and swung open the door and immediately yelled, “MOM…Did my Sea Ponies come?”  There was no answer. I knew she was home; she stayed home from work that day. The car was in the driveway.

 “MOM,” I yelled again, just in case she didn’t hear me the first time.

 “I’m in the kitchen. Something came for you today, come and look,” she said like she didn’t hear me yelling and ask her if they had come just a minute before. Her voice sounded weird. It was a happy-skeptical-sarcastic voice, like she wasn’t too sure how to answer me.  

I ripped off my boots and whipped my jacket and mittens into the corner of the entry-way and skipped into the kitchen where all the action was I guessed;  and tuning the corner, there on the desk, was a 12 inch high Sea Pony tank, with twenty or twenty- five tiny Sea Ponies … barley swimming around the tank in their salt water.

“Oh,  wow,  Mom, look at them. Look how cute they are,” I said as I looked at them, and then back up at my Mom with a big grin on my face, and then I returned my gaze to the tank. My nose was pressed up against the plastic tank to get a better look at them through the blue tinted plastic. They seemed to be trying to gain some momentum as they pushed to the top of the tank. It seemed weird to me. They were having a hard time swimming.

 “What’s the matter with them?” I asked her. “Are they sick or something?”
When I turned around to look at my Mom she had a little bit of grin on her face and she immediately turned in the other direction so I didn’t see her start giggling. I knew she was, and it made me mad.

“MOM! What is wrong with them?” I yelled.

Their swimming seemed labored.  Five or six of them would push and rock forward, laboring hard to get to the top of the take, their little curled tails pushing backward and then forward like they were on a swing. Then when they got to the top, as far as they could go,  they would just nose-dive straight back down to where they came from, down to the rocky bottom to huddle together with the rest of the group. None of them seemed to be very lively. Lethargic is a good description – and from my vantage point their momentum was not getting any better.

That was when my Mom told me what happened, and that she had left them out in the mailbox most of the day on that freezing cold snowy day. 

I vaguely remember screaming and yelling, “M-O-M … how could you forget to get the mail? YOU almost killed them. What if they all die? They are my birthday present.  M-O-M, how are you gonna save ‘em?” And I put my head down and cried. I had waited seven whole days for my Sea Ponies and now they were almost dead – in cold salty sea water, and I was in a state of panic no girl of 8 should have ever been in. 

It was pure torture.

I remember pushing my face up against the tank as I cried. I felt such a sense of loss, and they weren’t even dead. They weren’t even dying, really, they were just cold. But I couldn’t help it, they were my Sea Ponies, it just wasn’t right.

I cried for a while, my face stuck to the side of the tank, tears rolling down my face. My brother walked by and looked at me and said “what’s wrong with her?” to my Mom and kept on walking. I think he knew to steer clear.

 My Mom finally said, “OK, enough, they will be OK. Look at them, they are starting to act better, it looks like you face up against the plastic warmed them up a bit, what do you think?” she said.

I looked up, rubbed the tears off my face and looked, and sure enough, they were moving around much steadier, with purpose, as if seahorses even have a purpose. But they looked better to me and I credited the heat from my face for that.

“Yea, look Mom, look, they are moving faster. Do you think they will be OK?” I asked, in a whiny little voice that can only be made by an emotionally whiny girl. “Yes, Amy, I think they will be OK. I am sorry I forgot to check the mail. Next time I will make sure I check it right away.” My Mom said. “You and your Ponies are gonna be OK honey,” my Mom tried not to giggle and I tried to smile.

All was well in the world.

Thumbs up go to my Mom. In the end, she still made everything OK, just by the words that she said.

The Sea Ponies lived for about six months, which according to the information I got with them predicted. It was sad when one or two died, but in the end I was so excited to have these cool little pets for even that long. I couldn’t help but show them off when we had company.

When the last Sea Pony died, I cried again, and my Mom and I flushed him down the porcelain grave to join the rest of his family. 

I tried to get my Mom to get me more, but she said “once was enough,” stating we needed something that would survive in cold and warm temperatures. I even tried to get her to buy that Spider Monkey in the back of the magazine, but she shook her head in that “no way” shake Mom’s have, and that was the end of that conversation.

Pets are still a big part of my life, I think they are necessary. They keep me company and make up my family and honestly I could never be without pets.

My mom is gone now – and memories with her are so precious. I love bringing her back when I remember these bonding times with her. It just goes to show that these special times, which seems so insignificant, will one day, like today, serve as a pleasant reminder that my Mom and I had a special relationship, different than any other, and Sea Ponies seemed to solidify that.

If I could talk to my Mom now, I would bring up all the memories I could remember that we shared, and it would be fabulous. I think we would laugh more than we would cry, and we would remember things we thought for sure were gone forever.

You should remember these times with you mom too. If you still have your mom, go make some memories. If you don’t, remember the best of them – they are the glue that holds your unique bond together.

I will never forget those Sea Ponies and the memories they made for me and my Mom – they are now a treasure for me. Remembering these times is like little nuggets of Gold … Priceless.

What are some of your favorite memories with you Mom? Write about them. They will make you laugh and cry and help you remember what a great friend you had (have) in your Mom.

My Mom and Me ... another great memory.