Thursday, June 12, 2014
It's not that big of a stretch to understand why--we live on a farm with a pond full of whatever fish God has seen fit to rain in it. My children have grown up seeing it almost every day, completely unaware of the gut-sucking panic this mother has experienced every time they have gone near its watery depths for fear of them falling in and drowning or finding a poisonous moccasin hiding in the reeds.
All they saw, though, was an opportunity for fun.
Pond = fishing. Right?
I am many things, but a fisher-woman is not one of them. At any given moment, I could easily rattle off a hundred or so reasons why my children + fishing was a bad idea. I understand the thrill of the catch. My daddy and I used to fish at my great-grandma's old farm place, so like most people, I have my own story of the big one that got away. I distinctly remember the day he flashed his tail fin into the air as if to brag that we'd never catch him (and we didn't).
I also remember daddy doing all the work--threading the bait on the hooks, taking the fish off the hooks, and letting them splash hard through his glove-covered hands and back into the depths. He was the one who cast our lines far enough out to give us a chance at catching that big one. He was also the one with the hook stuck in his skin when my brother or I failed to hit the target.
Then, there is the memory of ever-present mosquitoes who make a bee-line for my particular blood type or the very vivid memory of donating blood to a catfish's barb. If I could get past those very rational fears, there was still the knowledge that I would be the one sending night crawlers to a watery death, all for catch-and-release entertainment, and that's not to mention the waiting....waiting....waiting (yawn!) for the fish to decide they want to eat said night crawler.
My first excuse was that my children lacked proper equipment, never mind that my brother and I routinely went crawfishing with string, a cane pole, and leftover chicken mama was throwing out. Thanks to a benevolent Aunt Liza and Uncle Johnathan, all three were gifted equipped with their own pint-sized fishing rods, complete with images of various Disney characters all smiling as if to say, "This is going to be great!!!" So much for that excuse.
Excuse #2 was that the children didn't know how to use a rod and reel. And so, we spent too many hours practicing our casting in the yard. Actually, this mother spent too many hours untangling their lines from whatever they'd managed to wrap it around. The BBQ grill, the oak tree, the cat. No matter how far apart I placed my three children when they began casting lessons, it never failed that after a few minutes, one child's line would be knotted with another child's line, which would inevitably become knotted with the third child's line when he would come to "help."
Even after a year of off-and-on practice, just the thought of giving my children a real hook versus the rubber fish used for practice gave me fingers-down-a-chalkboard shivers. Excuse #2 was alive and kicking.
I tried to pawn the job off onto my husband or my in-laws, gave hints that had to be obvious. Still, nobody took the bait. Obviously, they, too, thought this was about as fun as a root canal.
Earlier this summer, though, I finally caved in to the pleading and promises of their firstborn children and blind obedience if only I'd take them. Please?
Instead of an easy date night on the sofa with husband, I was the sweaty, mosquito-bitten, nauseous woman repeatedly pinching thick earthworms into smaller pieces with my fingernails, all while praying aloud for forgiveness as I wove their writhing forms on the hook. I was also the woman ducking for cover as empty hooks floated perilously through the air towards me when the fish stole their bait (again).
That first evening, oldest son, Wyatt, caught three small fish. Bass. Perch.
Listening to the screams, you'd have thought they were great whoppers with solid gold scales. The welcoming committee leaped skyward with child-like excitement, enjoyed the terrified fish for a minute or two, then returned them to their habitat so they could grow into a future meal.
As the day's light began to fade, I returned home with worm guts under my fingernails and red spotted appendages from giving blood to a swarm of hungry insects.
I headed straight for the hot water, soap, and hand sanitizer on top of that.
When my children ask what love looks like, I'll point to memories such as this one. This is the meaning of love. It is doing for others what you would never do for yourself. It is self sacrifice for another's happiness. It is doing what you thought you couldn't or simply didn't want to, all because someone else wanted you to walk with them.
Love is just as the title says--worm guts and mosquito bites.
at 11:25 PM