Fishy Tales of Mom's Old Beau

When I was growing up, I loved to hear my mom's wild stories about the guy she dated as a teenager. I never yawned at her yarns, no matter how many times I requested them.

"Yes," she'd say with a furtive glance at my dad. "This fellow was a real smooth-talker. Suave. On our first date, he gave me a compliment. He said, 'Wow, you have the smallest waist I've ever seen in my life. Amazing!' Well, of course, I was flattered and thanked him. He should have quit while he was ahead, but nooo, he had to go on. 'I just can't figure out how you'd have enough guts in there to stay alive!' "

"He didn't!" I'd always say, although I'd heard the tale so many times I could practically lip-sync it word for word.

"Not that old story again," Dad muttered behind his J.C. Whitney catalog.

"He sure made an impression on my father," Mom went on. "It might have been all those years teaching school, but your grandpa was an absolute stickler for being on time. One day, he said, 'Ask your young man to dinner this Sunday. Six o'clock sharp.' When I invited him, I made a point of saying, 'My father means 6 on the dot, not 6:01. I'm not joking.'"

I grinned in anticipation. "So then?"

Mom chuckled. "He shows up after 7, and every morsel of food is gone."

"Brother," I said.

"Well, he did go out and buy us all ice cream, a huge treat. And he was never late again."

"I'm amazed he was invited again."

"Oh, I thought he was a diamond in the rough," Mom said. She'd grin. "Very, very rough. The roughest."

Dad, the most punctual person I've ever met, rustled the pages of his catalog and sighed elaborately. "Who wants to hear a bunch of ancient dating stories, anyway?"

"I do," I'd say brightly, and Mom would ask in mock innocence, "Oh, is this bothering you, Dear Heart?"

"Just one more," I'd beg.

"OK. Well, here's the dating story that tops them all. Before your grandma got all those cats, she had a bowl of guppies she was crazy about. For whatever reason, she absolutely adored those fish. One day, she was thrilled to find that one of the guppies had given birth. The guppy babies didn't seem very exciting to me, just a bunch of tiny swimming dots. But Grandma tenderly scooped them out into a drinking glass and set it on the mantel where they'd be safe. That same evening, I was out with you-know-who...."

I'd giggle here while Dad snorted in the background.

"When we got back, he asked if I could get him a drink of water while he wandered out on the porch to admire the view - you know, all the lights of Los Angeles below my parents' hill. I fiddled around in the kitchen until I heard him come back in the house. Then I got his water and returned to the living room just in time...." Mom would pause dramatically here. "To see my date drinking down the very last of my mother's baby guppies!"

"Oh no!" I gasped.

MOM laughed. "Yes, he thought the glass of water on the mantel was for him. I can still see the way his eyes popped when I told him what he'd done. He was appalled, and apologized like crazy! But you know, I don't think my mother ever truly forgave him."

"I've got a feeling you're right about that," Dad said.

"I'm just amazed that you kept on dating this guy."

"Personally, I think she was dazzled by his extraordinary good looks," Dad said.

"But the most amazing thing," I went on, "is that you actually married him!"

"A diamond in the rough," Mom mused out loud.

Dad just gave us a big guppy-guzzling grin.

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