Goldfish > Avocado

The avocado pit that I recently attempted to grow into a tree didn’t make it. We’ll give it another try next time we purchase an avocado – I still think our daughter would enjoy watching a little avocado sapling sprouting in a glass of water.

Since the avocado tree never actually began to grow, my child (and I) never had an opportunity to grow attached to it.

* * *

By coincidence, my daughter received a goldfish from her preschool on the final day of the school year, just over one week ago. We hadn’t expected this, and, as we don’t have a car, I was slightly miffed at having to schlep the little plastic container home, water splashing out through the air holes as it swung from side to side… but in the end, after a pizza stop and an extended playground date with a friend, we all arrived in tact.

As I carried the little fish around, I could feel it bumping its head against the sides of its small plastic prison, and I knew it wouldn’t last long in such cramped quarters.

I only recall having one goldfish in my childhood, and its life was very short-lived. I won it at my childhood synagogue during an annual Purim carnival and brought it home. It never occurred to me that caring for it would require any serious commitment, nor that the water in that tiny container without a filtration system would quickly become poisonous. Also, I don’t believe it much bothered me to flush the victim of my disinterest down the toilet.

For some reason, perhaps for the same reason that I wanted to grow an avocado sapling for my 5½-year-old, I immediately saw potential in her newly acquired goldfish. I would, of course, have appreciated it if the preschool had let us know in advance about this unexpected gift, but… well… there it was, bumping its little head around.

* * *

We arrived back home at 7:00 in the PM, and I immediately had to complete a PowerPoint presentation for work. Quickly, I checked online to see how late the local pet store would be open- 9:00 PM.

I hurried to complete my work, arrived at the mall by 8:30, and ordered myself an iced cappuccino before making my way to the pet store on the 2nd floor.

As my spoken Russian is stronger than my spoken Hebrew, I was pleased that the young salesperson had a familiar accent and peppered him with a dozen different questions, which he was more than happy to answer. That night, I came home with a small aquarium with a filtration system, a bag of black pebbles, two plastic plants, and a lot of information.

Back at home, I transferred the fish to the aquarium and started scouring the Internet for further goldfish-related nuggets. Unsurprisingly, entire websites have been dedicated to the raising of goldfish, and I found myself wondering what might have been if such resources had been available during my childhood.

Some tidbits:

  • Domesticated goldfish can potentially live for ten years or more
  • They have different personalities and can get bored
  • Their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, rice, shrimp, and other things
  • Goldfish have teeth at the back of their throats
  • Instead of a stomach, they have one long intestine
  • For every year of a goldfish’s life, it develops a ring on its scaly body
  • Goldfish can see more colors than human beings
  • Once they are used to their homes, they will nibble food out of your hand.
  • They can be taught tricks, can recognize their owners, and have memories that span more than three months

* * *

At first our daughter assigned the goldfish a series of five or six names (including our last name), but eventually she settled upon ‘Goldie’, just like Peppa Pig’s goldfish. She feeds Goldie every morning, and she sometimes suggests that I peel and cut up a grape, which she cheerfully drops into the tank.

As for me, after Goldie’s first week in our home, I changed the water and rinsed the aquarium filter… so I’m doing my part in trying to keep Goldie alive. I guess we’ll see – goldfish are very cheap to buy so if Goldie doesn’t make it for some reason, we’ve already discussed our intent to get another fish. If at first we don’t succeed, we’ll try and try again.

The second avocado pit

Nearly nine years ago, I decided to take an avocado pit and rest it atop a glass of water, held up by three toothpicks. A little tree grew out of it.

I named it Avi.

I remember watching Avi’s roots growing steadily, first down-down-down to the bottom of the glass, and then spiraling around until they filled it. The little tree was probably ~8 cm in height by the time its roots had started curling around the bottom.

Somewhat like my father before me, I tend to enjoy simple pleasures, and Avi became one of mine. Growing a tree from an avocado pit is something that a kindergartner would likely enjoy, something I could imagine my daughter taking pleasure in. Still, having Avi growing on my window brought me happiness.

Eventually, I decided that the time had come to plant Avi into a pot with soil. I’d inherited an earthenware pot from a friend who no longer lived in Israel and transferred Avi to it. At first, I thought Avi simply needed to acclimate to the potted soil, but within several weeks it was clear that Avi wasn’t going to make it. I despaired as my once hearty sapling declined from robust to sickly, and then to wilted.

My wife, who has a very green thumb, opined that it was likely because the pot, pleasing though it was to the eye, didn’t have any holes at the bottom. Drainage holes, I was informed, allow water to seep out of the soil, making adequate air available for the roots. While various kinds of plants have differing drainage needs, few can tolerate sitting in stagnant water. Avi had never stood a chance 😭

My outward reaction was stoic, but Avi’s death hit me hard. For years following the incident, I grimly rejected the suggestion of planting a 2nd avocado pit.

* * *

The other day, my 5½-year-old came home from preschool with a pack of new goodies: toy binoculars with a compass on top, a magnifying glass, a small flashlight, a plastic pair of tweezers, and a plastic vial. Imaginative child that she is, she quickly became an intrepid explorer, examining our bed sheets with her flashlight and magnifying glass, binoculars hanging from her neck.

My wife is a big fan of avocados (even more so than I am), and I happened to have made a salad earlier this week. The avocado pit was still lying on the counter, and somehow I knew that I was ready. Watching a little tree grow out of a pit would be magical for my little girl.

Boopsie, do you know what we can do? I have a great idea!
What, Abba’chka?
We can grow a tree out of this little Avocado pit! All we have to do is put it in a glass of water with some toothpicks.
(My wife looked at me, shocked) Wow, have enough years gone by, then?
Yes, she’ll love this. You know, Boops, I used to have another little tree, and I named it Avi the Avocado. Do you want to name our new tree?
Yes! Let’s call it Havie, with a silent ‘e’ at the end!

And so – Havie the Avocado has tiny little roots growing out into a glass of water, resting near our kitchen window. It’ll be some time yet before we have to think about transferring Havie to a pot with soil… so I’m putting that out of my mind for now.