At three and a half months old, he flew unaccompanied across the country to join my family. We were ready for him when he came. In fact, I had been counting down the days with anticipation when, finally, he humbly arrived on our doorstep, in a box.
His first impression did not disappoint. After painstakingly opening the box, I gingerly extracted the clear cellophane bag of water and air found within, and peered directly into the eyes of the smallest, most exquisite betta fish, who returned my inquisitive stare, mirroring my awe and curiosity with his own. In my eleven year old eyes, he was unlike any other fish. Blood red, his iridescent fins glimmered like flames as he swam. Watching him patrol the territory of his small bowl, my face inches from the glass, I knew that his name needed to be perfect. It needed to be him.
Names have always been of special significance to me, and with each new animal comes a hunt for the perfect name.
I scour books, websites, and most often my mind, for inspiration. Of particular interest are two categories: foreign languages and literary references. My new fish’s name was destined to fall into the latter category: Marvolo, a name of magic and mystery stolen from Tom Marvolo Riddle, alias Voldemort, a character in my literary guilty pleasure, the Harry Potter series.
Marvolo continued to mesmerize me. After a tough soccer game, a taxing case at Mock Trial, or simply a long day at school, I knew I could count on him to deftly swim to the front of his bowl and look at me with his intuitive ink blot eyes, which seemed to absorb everything they paused to gaze upon. I became determined to make him as happy as possible. Ordering nearly every library book available on betta fish, I devoured the words that would give me more insight into betta splendens. When I discovered that his small abode was far from ideal, I saved for a two and a half gallon tank. The change in his behavior was miraculous; he became simply giddy, swimming with a fervor I had never seen.
Marvolo, admittedly, was not my first inspiration for becoming a vet. Nor did the notion come to me in a sudden revelation. Instead, it seemed to be something that was always in me, increasing with intensity over time. Certain events, however, have undoubtedly refined and magnified my veterinary aspirations.
On one such instance, my mother brought home the first season of a BBC series she thought I would like. Somewhat reluctantly I agreed to watch an episode or two. Far from the dry Brit show I envisioned it to be, All Creatures Great and Small broadened my realm of veterinary vision. I was happily sucked into the world of James Herriot, Siegfried Farnon, and the many quirky patients of the English countryside veterinary practice they maintained. Their idea of a practice connected to their home, where every patient is known by name, has ever since remained my dream.
After nearly six long years together, I buried Marvolo this summer…
In the local lifesaving museum, I archive documents detailing nautical voyages from points east to my small peninsula south of Boston. Marvolo was my personal traveler from points west – a creature of curiosity, vivacity, and beauty. As I prepare to embark on my own journey away from home, I know I will remember this quiet observer, always strong, composed, and fearlessly awaiting his next adventure, whether traversing a continent, or swimming the length of his tank.
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