Charlotte the Goldfish

Melissa Dawn By Melissa Dawn, 16th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

My first experience with love and loss with Charlotte the fish. Dedicated to two fabulous parents and all the special Charlotte's in my life!

An Introduction to Charlotte

''Daddy, Mummy murdered Charlotte and we buried her in the back yard'. I was four and a half years old, and my big strong Daddy a Marine Engineer had just returned from a job overseas. Now, over 30 years later I can still remember the look on his face as I stoically delivered these words.

But wait, that's not where the story begins, the story began about ten days earlier when Mummy and I brought Charlotte home...

Charlotte the Goldfish

We had gone to the Fair, it was a treat for being a big girl and having started school. We start school younger in Britain and Mummy had picked me up and we had gone off in the old Buick Skylark to a Fair that visited Bolton twice a year. We hadn't planned on getting a Fish, I had gone on some of the rides, Mum had won me a stuffed bear and bought me cotton candy. The noise and the lights as darkness fell had cast almost a magical spell over me. I just had to have something else...something to remember this magical time. As we were leaving, we passed a Booth with dozens of plastic bags with Goldfish swimming in them, and I just had to have one.

The big tall Carnival man was very patient as I chose Charlotte. Out of dozens of identical fish I managed to pick out the special one. Carefully moving through the crowds I held Charlotte in her bag of water in one hand, and on to Mummy's hand in the other. Safetly ensconced in the booster seat in the back of the car I watched Charlotte swim and twitch her little tail as the lights and excitement of the Fair disappeared.

Luckily Mum had got some fish food off the Carnival man and Charlotte was placed on the kitchen counter in Mum's best and biggest glass mixing bowl. Climbing up on to a stool I can remember watching my Mum carefully put Charlotte in to her temporary new home. I could never remember being so excited. There was a family dog, a cat, but they had existed before I was born and Charlotte was mine.

Charlotte's first week

The next day I came home to a small fish tank, with fake reeds, and a little tunnel that she could swim through. My Mum had waited until I got home from Prep School (British Kindergarten) so we could get Charlotte's new home ready together. I had specifically asked that she have a fish tunnel, after all I didn't want a bored fish!

Mum showed me how many grains of fish food to feed her, and explained how the little pump would keep Charlotte's water clean. Watching Charlotte discover her new home brought me such a sense of joy, and I ran to get friends who lived down the street in our gated community to come and see her. They did indeed agree she was a fine fish.

For about the next week I watched Charlotte incessantly. Every time she would swim through her tunnel I would hold my breath, what if she didn't swim out the other side? Then there she would be with a flick of her tail fin's and I would giggle. She was the last thing I looked at before I went to bed and the first thing I would run to in the morning and when I came in from school.

Charlottes death

I only had her for about a week. One day Mum picked me up from school and she was very quiet and barely talked on the way home. I knew something was wrong, but all I could think about was getting home to see Charlotte. Other kids had told me about how they made bigger tunnels for their Goldfish and I was wondering if Charlotte would like one.

I remember flying in through the front door and running straight to the kitchen. I couldn't wait to tell Charlotte that soon she would have a bigger better tunnel to swim through. I remember climbing up on the stool, planting my two small hands on the ceramic counter and seeing Charlotte floating side up at the top of the fish tank. My Mum was fast behind me. She had wanted to tell me gently that Charlotte had died. She didn't get chance. To this day my Mum tells me she has never heard a worse sound than I made at that moment. 'Bloodcurdling', is the way she describes it.

I cried, I screamed, I ranted. I insisted that Mummy give Charlotte the kiss of life, when Mummy finally got through to me that Charlotte was not sleeping, but really really dead. Perhaps we could have a funeral Mummy said, and I would feel better. Looking back now I realize what I did next was simply not fair. 'Charlotte's dead and you murdered her' I said and stormed out of the kitchen, out of the house and down the street.

Charlotte's funeral

I went to my friend Joanna's house and informed her and her sister Linda that my Mother had murdered my fish. Joanna being a couple of years over assured me that Charlotte had probably just died and that a week was probably a very long happy life for a Goldfish. Her Mum Pat, gave me cookies while telephoning my Mum and assuring her it would 'blow over', finally I went home.

Mummy appeared to have taken it in stride as she was to do over many more things in the years to come. She had laid Charlotte out on a white lace hankerchief and gotten a very large matchbox. We went in to the backyard where Mum dug a small hole with her trowel and we buried Charlotte. I told her she was a very good fish and I would miss her greatly. Then we made a little marker out of two popsicle sticks, so I would always know where Charlotte was.

After Charlotte....

It took a few weeks of daily grave visits, but eventually I forgot about Charlotte. Until my Daddy came home from Sea and asked what the marker was in the backyard. And that's how this story began with me telling him that Mummy had murdered her. Unaware that I had had a Fish, unaware that Charlotte had been a FISH, Daddy looked very very worried.

'So was Charlotte your imaginary friend' he asked me gently.

'No, Charlotte was real and Mummy murdered her because she didn't watch her while I was at school'.

I was only four and a half but I remember Daddy running into the house and asking who the heck Charlotte was while I stood outside feeling very sad all over again. What seemed like a long time but was probably only a few minutes and Daddy was back and kneeling beside me.

'Charlotte went to Fish Heaven' he said. But I would not be comforted. Finally he uttered words that he was going to say a good many more times over the next few years. 'How about a new doll'.

We went to buy a doll. Just Daddy and I. A big expensive doll, almost half my size. Then I told the store Clerk that Daddy was buying me a doll because Mummy had murdered Charlotte. He took me for an ice cream Sundae where I informed the Waitress that Mummy had murdered Charlotte, and to this day I remember the look of alarm on her face and the very big tip my Dad left her.

On the way home, Daddy asked me in simple words that a little girl would understand to please not tell people that Mummy had actually murdered Charlotte. He told me they could never understand how special she had been to me. He also promised me that one day when we had a bigger house I could have fish in a pond. Finally pacified I went home and told Mum that I forgave her for murdering my fish.

The next chapter

Thirty some years later I realize how lucky I was. Had Mum just flushed Charlotte or simply replaced her with a substitute I never would have learned about love, loss and letting go. I also know how lucky I was to have such fabulous parents. My Mum is still remarkable, a Polio Survivor who has managed to stay out of a wheelchair, and the best Dad a little girl could have. My big strong Daddy who sailed through Hurricanes, took Boats to far away and often unsafe countries, who dealt with so many different difficult things, and yet who still went out of the way to take away a little girl's grief. My Dad is long gone to lung cancer, and this is one of my favourite memories of him.

And I did get the fish pond, and the fish. Some three years later Mummy built it at night by floodlights in our new front garden as a suprise. And that's when I got Kelly, Chris and Sabrina. But that's a whole other story..... :-)


Creative Writing, Goldfish, Persona Experiences, Short Stories

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author avatar Melissa Dawn
I have been writing ever since I can remember, and currently focus my attention on articles, how to guides and e-books. Check out my group e-book at

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author avatar Judith C Evans
17th Jul 2010 (#)

Children form close bonds with any pet (I had a goldfish for just one week, too!). What a blessing that your parents understood how to approach this loss.

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author avatar Melissa Dawn
17th Jul 2010 (#)

THanks Judith :-)

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author avatar Conny
17th Jul 2010 (#)

I had two chickens who my mom really did murder (or rather she had them murdered). I never forgave her.

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author avatar King's Chronicler
17th Jul 2010 (#)

I am off-topic but I am now a fan. I wish I had the time to write again :(

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author avatar Retired
18th Jul 2010 (#)

Melissa, You made me laugh so much, you little imp! Loved the story!

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author avatar Melissa Dawn
18th Jul 2010 (#)

I was a bit of a brat eh? thanks for reading.

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author avatar rajaryanme
19th Jul 2010 (#)

Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
25th Jul 2010 (#)

Its actually quite good that your mom told the truth - too many parents go out and get a new fish never teaching kids to understand death.

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author avatar TheJadedWords
28th Jul 2010 (#)

Great little story! :)

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author avatar Denise O
10th Aug 2010 (#)

From the mouth of babes huh. What a sweet memory of your Daddy and what a very sweet and patient Mummy you have.

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