A good number of my earliest and fondest childhood memories have something to do with fish.
Growing up in England, we always had an aquarium filled with fish of all shapes and sizes.
I can still picture our black rimmed fish tank and climbing up on the chair to feed them for the first time when I was 4 or 5.
I remember putting my hands in the tank to see if the fish would bite or come to me… and my mom reprimanding me time and time again.
I remember feeling so proud when people visited and crowded around our tank to admire our gorgeous fish
Fish meant home… beauty, happiness, tranquility… family.
In the 90’s, we left England… and our fish.
In the 7 or so years that I spent in Nigeria, I never once saw an aquarium that wasn’t being used to store ‘food fish’:
’120 Naira for this one madam… na titus fish… e sweet well well’
’ok because you be fine madam, I go collect 105 Naira for your hand…. 90 too small… abi you want make I waka go back house?’
From a ‘pet’ to my ‘pot’
In the one year I spent in Ghana, I never once saw an aquarium that wasn’t being used to store ‘food fish’:
‘chale… e be the correct protein this I want sell you… 20, 000 cedis.. the ‘price’ that’
‘chioo… yellow lady wey di ye… wu ha aduni paaa… mi ma wu 18, 000 cedis… last ‘plice’’
Then I came to Canada on a freezing February night, bundled up in my ‘Ghanaian bought leather jacket’, black kangol hat, dark blue jeans and ‘Canada sent sweater’ and saw something that warmed my heart… told me I had arrived:
It wasn’t the beautiful house we were ushered into, the beautiful room that became ours, the beautiful gifts on the bed in that room…
I saw an AQUARIUM
Once again… beauty, happiness, tranquility… family.
I was home!!!
But right now, I am heartbroken…
Last night, my mom mistakenly turned off the water supply to the aquarium.
We woke up this morning to a tank full of dead fish.
My beautiful, beautiful fish… DEAD!
- Celine was 9 years old… gold and black and white and huge and absolutely stunning… the queen… and oldest in our fish tank. She was a bit of a bully and had a very hearty appetite. RIP my darling… I hope you’re in a better place where you can gorge on ‘fish cheesecake and vodka’ much tastier than your earthly ‘nutrafin’
It was a testament to your size and beauty that every Ghanaian person who visited our home always made a half-meant joke about the possibility of frying you to eat with kenkey and hot pepper… although I’m sure it must’ve been an affront to your dignity.
- Awilo was 8… and the ‘Tony Blair’ of our aquarium… RIP my gorgeous... everytime I dance to ‘Coupe Bibamba’ from here on out… it’ll be in memory of you.
- Shina P was 5 years old… and the loner of the tank. He ate when he had to and moved only when he had to... he had a very quiet dignity about him and just took his time with everything. I think he was an orphan or nursing a broken heart or something… and a bit of a pretty boy … I never once saw a string of poo hanging out his ass… his stripes were always fresh to death. A Versace of a fish… our Shina P was.
- Dr. Evil, Chinua Achebe, X, Nicole, Cashew, Kweku Abrewa Kojohoho and Tombo were the other members of our fish tank family… full of personality and energy… full of life.
… and now they’re ALL gone…
Only two of our newest fish… the 1 year old ‘Rita’ and ‘Geography’ survived it…
We found them struggling to take their last breaths… probably writing ‘fish wills’ and mentally releasing life insurance documents…
We turned the power back on immediately… and so far they look alright.
Celine, Awilo, Shina P.. Dr. Evil, Chinua Achebe, X, Nicole, Cashew, Kweku Abrewa Kojohoho, and Tombo… azu e ji eje mba… ono na iru ona na azu… you are gone but will never be forgotten.
When you get to fish heaven, remember to remain a family and use all the lessons we taught you while you were here…
I love you guys with all my heart and I grieve your loss
(on behalf of the ‘Naija Babe’ family)
REST IN PEACE!