Everything Old is Newt Again

This is the dawning of the age of aquariums


This is the story of Isaac Newt.  No, not Isaac Newton, the well-known astronomer.  I’m talking about Isaac the Newt, the lesser-known amphibian.

It all started way back when my son Jason was in the first grade.  For his birthday a friend gave him the latest fad gift – a "Grow-a-Frog” kit, which consisted of a 6” square plastic aquarium, a bag of turquoise gravel, a packet of food and an envelope in which we were to enclose $5.00 to order our tadpole through the mail.  That’s right – through the mail.

Within a week, a small Styrofoam container arrived and inside, floating in a tiny Ziploc bag was indeed a real live tadpole, only he was very far from being "live”.  In fact, he was not just merely dead – he was really most sincerely dead.  Undaunted, I shipped the corpse right back, and several days later we received tadpole number two, and this one was actually alive.

I don’t remember what Jason originally named him, but over the next few weeks we took to calling him "Peter Pan”, and for very good reason.  He absolutely refused to grow up!  Everyone else’s tadpoles morphed into frogs, right on schedule.  Meanwhile Peter seemed quite content in his perpetual pollywog state and showed zero interest in evolving.  One day it occurred to me that perhaps what he needed was a role model – you know, a nice mature frog to look up to for inspiration.  So I hopped down to the nearest pet store to purchase an adult water frog.  Problem was they didn’t have any.  The closest thing I could find was a little fire-belly newt.  "Will he be compatible with our tadpole?” I asked the store owner.  "Oh sure,” he replied, "They’ll get along just fine.”

Well apparently the newt failed to get that memo, because within minutes of their formal introduction, all that was left of Peter was his big bulbous head (with a most startled expression on his face, I might add) protruding from his new roommate’s mouth! 

After poor little Peter the frog had, uh, croaked, so to speak, I was left with Isaac the newt.  It was a relationship that would last for … well, more about that in a minute.  First let me describe what my life with him was like.  He lived on my breakfast bar in a glass bowl outfitted with a large rock that enabled him to climb out of the water when the mood struck him.  His diet – apart from tadpoles – consisted of frozen bloodworms.  Once a week I lifted him out and placed him on the countertop, where he sought refuge behind my canisters while I washed his gunky residence.  Then I rinsed him off and dropped him back into his bowl.

The astute reader will notice here the frequent use of the word "I”.  That’s because within a week of Isaac’s arrival Jason had completely lost interest, our daughter, Lauren was grossed out, and my husband expressed a repeated inclination to flush this newest member of the family altogether.  But for reasons unknown even to me, I intervened and thus became Isaac’s primary caregiver.  "Not to worry”, I told myself; "It’ll only be for a little while.  After all, how long can a newt live anyway?”

Soon afterward Jason burst into my kitchen with big news.  "We just watched a film on amphibians,” he announced.  "And guess what, Mom.  The lifespan of a newt is forty years!”  I laughed, but not very much.

When Jason reached the sixth grade, his friends marveled that Isaac was still around.  Junior high came and went.  High School came and went.  College came and went and still that silly newt was with us.

At this point Marc and I found ourselves carefree empty-nesters at last, save for this confoundedly immortal creature, so I decided the time had come to pawn him off – oops, I mean "offer him up for adoption”.  By now Isaac had lived with us for fifteen years, but I figured surely his days would be numbered at the hands of the ten-year-old son of some friends of ours who stupidly agreed to take him. 

Obviously I underestimated both the kid and the critter because, believe it or not, as of this writing – a full twenty-four years after he first took up residence on my kitchen counter – Isaac the Newt is still going strong.

The moral of this story is: Unless your dreams of retirement include an amphibian, don’t even think of getting a newt. You’ll live to regret it, and he’ll live even longer than that!

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