Freddy and Freda’s Fish
Children’s Story, Christmas Eve 2005
Dr. Gary Cox — Wichita, Kansas
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Freddie and Freda were brother and sister, and they were busy kids. In fact, they were so busy it seemed like they never slowed down! Freddie was in the Boys Scouts, he played soccer, Little League baseball, took guitar lessons, was a member of the science club and the chess club at school. To make a little extra money he mowed lawns in the summer and shoveled snow from driveways in the winter.
Freda was just as busy as her brother. She belonged to girl Scouts, played soccer, took dance lessons, played on the school volleyball team, belonged to the school French Club, took piano lessons, and had just started a small paper route to make a little extra money.
Freddie and Freda were good students. Their parents saw to that. The kids were allowed to participate in all those activities only if they kept their grades up. So they worked hard on their school work, and from the time the alarm went off in the morning until they said their goodnight prayers, they were constantly on the run.
Christmas was coming soon. Freddie and Freda wanted one thing more than anything else in the world: a pet. They imagined running around the back yard with a playful dog, scratching behind his ears, and playing fetch with a stick from the old oak tree that grew behind the back patio.
Of course, their parents knew better than to get the kids a dog.
“What would you do with a dog?” their mother asked. “You barely have a free minute to eat dinner. How could you make time for a pet?”
Their dad felt the same way, although he was a bit more sympathetic than mom. The kids had heard their dad talk about the dog he had when he was growing up. “But your mom is right,” he said. “Dogs are wonderful, but they take a lot of time. And you two just don’t have any spare time.”
Freddie and Freda put their heads together and came up with an idea. A fish! A fish did not require constant attention like a dog or cat. You couldn’t even pet a fish! But at least they would have a pet.
Now, there is one thing I forgot to mention when I started this story. Freddie and Freda’s mom and dad didn’t have much money. They worked hard, and they took good care of their children. And the whole family loved each other. They never thought of themselves as being poor, but the truth is, they were. They were poor. They made sure the kids got to participate in all the activities they wanted, but all that sports equipment and music lessons and school supplies cost money.
The reason I mention this is that when mom and dad decided to buy a Christmas fish for Freddie and Freda, they saw all these big, fancy glass aquariums with fish swimming happily around. But they could not afford such a luxury. So they bought the only thing they could afford: a fish bowl.
Okay, it wasn’t even much of a fish bowl. It wasn’t much bigger than a glass jar. But they filled it with water, and bought a pretty little goldfish for Freddie and Freda’s Christmas present. And the kids were just as happy as could be. On Christmas morning they watched the little fish, which they called Fishy, swimming around in the tiny bowl.
They really loved Fishy. They fed him every day, and cleaned his little fish bowl once each week. And even though they couldn’t play fetch or scratch him behind his ears, they were still happy to have a pet.
And life went on for Freddie and Freda just like it had before. They woke up in the morning, jumped out of bed, ate a quick breakfast and rushed to school, and depending on what day of the week it was, after school they either attended a club meeting, or went to a meeting of the scouts, or played soccer, or took their music lessons. Usually they crammed three of four of those things into each evening. The family never ate dinner together. They were too busy. But no matter how busy they were, Freddie and Freda walked over to the fish bowl every night before bed, gave Fishy some food, and told him goodnight.
One night in early fall, after school had started but before the weather turned too cold, Freda’s French club meeting was cancelled, and she actually had a few spare hours in the evening. What should she do? Watch television? Her friends at school were always talking about their favorite shows. Of maybe she could read! Not school work, but read a book just for fun! There were so many possibilities.
And then Freda saw Fishy swimming in the little fish bowl, and she decided to sit and watch him for a while. Around and around he swam. Sometimes he would butt his head against the edge of the bowl, as if he wished he could swim off in a straight line and actually go somewhere. But that was not possible. The inside of the bowl smoothly turned him to the side, and no matter how hard we swam, and no matter how fast he swam, he could do nothing other than go around and around in little circles.
Freddie got home late, of course, having run from school to soccer practice, and after that running off to his guitar lesson. He saw Freda sitting by the fishbowl, and as the two of them were feeding Fishy and telling him goodnight, Freda said, “You know, Freddie, sometimes I feel just like Fishy. I feel like I go and go and go, but never get anywhere!”
Freddie thought that was a funny way of thinking about things, but told Freda they’d better get right to bed, since Freda had to get up at four in the morning to deliver papers, and Freddie had to get up early to finish the homework he hadn’t had the time to do that evening after school evening.
The next day was a typical day for Freddie. He got up in the morning several hours before school and skipped breakfast so he could get his homework done. The he rushed to school and had what can only be called a typical day at school. Math class was too long and recess was too short and the lunch served by the school cafeteria brought tears to his eyes, and they were not tears of joy! After school he had a science club meeting which made him late for soccer practice. The soccer coach was not very happy with him for being late, but he was even more upset when Freddie had to leave practice early so he could make it to his Boy Scout meeting. Freddie was walking home well after dark when his neighbor, Mr. Jones, saw him and yelled, “Hey Freddie! When are you going to mow my lawn? It is needed it for a week now. You’re not getting lazy on me, are you?”
And Freddie told Mr. Jones he would mow his lawn tomorrow, although right after he made that promise he remembered that tomorrow he had soccer practice after school, and then a special meeting of the chess club. And he was president of the chess club! He couldn’t miss that.
When Freddie came in the front door, was he ever surprised to see his sister Freda sitting in a chair beside the fish bowl reading a book. And this wasn’t some school book filled with lots of boring junk. This was a Nancy Drew mystery. She was reading for fun. And mom and dad were sitting beside her, and they were all eating popcorn, talking now and then, and occasionally watching good old Fishy swim around in little circles in the little fishbowl.
Freddie said, “What is going on around here?! Freda, why aren’t you at volleyball practice?”
And Freda said, “Freddie, I decided to get out of the fishbowl. I’m not going to turn into one of those people who sits around and watches television all the time, but life is just too wonderful to spend all my time running around in circles. I talked with mom and dad, and we have decided I should cut back on my activities. I’ll decide which ones are really important to me, and let the others go for a while.”
Freddie had to admit that sounded like a pretty good idea. His encounter with Mr. Jones, who needed his lawn mowed, had reminded him that his life was no different than Fishy’s. He was going in circles as fast as could be and never getting anywhere!
It took a few months, but Freddie, after seeing how much Freda was enjoying her free time—time to play in the back yard, time to hang out with friends, and still plenty of time for dance lessons and Girl Scouts—Freddie made some changes of his own. He decided to keep taking guitar lessons and he remained on the soccer team, but he let everything else go for a while. He needed the break.
Several amazing things happened as a result of these changes. For one thing, the whole family got to eat dinner together most evenings. Oh, there were still times when they had to eat on the run, but many nights they were now able to sit down together and talk about how their days had gone.
Another wonderful thing that happened was that Freda received more Girl Scout awards than any scout in her troop had ever won before. She discovered that when she had the time to dedicate to something, she could do it very well. And Freddie, well Freddie started getting really good at guitar. In the old days he hardly had time to practice. Now he had time, and it was paying off. He even started a little band with some friends from school—they practiced every Saturday afternoon.
Yes, the whole family was happier now. But I forgot the best part of all. The next Christmas, when the kids got up on Christmas morning, they hardly noticed the presents mom and dad had placed under the Christmas tree. Because along one whole wall of the living room was the biggest, most humongous, colossal, capacious, commodious, copious, enormous, heavy-duty, hulking, jumbo, mammoth, massive, mondo, monstrous, oversized, ponderous, prodigious, spacious, substantial, super-colossal, tremendous, walloping whopper of an aquarium the kids had ever seen!
And in that aquarium good old Fishy was happily swimming along—in a straight line! He edged along the front of the glass, and then, just to show off, did a couple of summersaults. After that he showed the family his backstroke, followed by a couple of loop-de-loops over by the decorative castle that stood at one end of the aquarium.
And the fishy looked through the glass of the aquarium at Freddie and Freda, and to this day those two kids will tell you that fish winked at them. I don’t know about that, but one thing I know for sure. Sometimes kids are like fish. If you give them a little time and a little room, its amazing what they can do.