When I was 9 years old, my family moved from Williamsburg, Virginia to Salt Lake City, Utah. This would upend my world in more ways than I then understood – rural to urban, southern to western, near kin to distant. But on saying goodbye to my friends, and the best neighborhood I would ever know, it was the fish that made me cry.
Williamsburg is low country, spotted with lakes, ponds and assorted swamps, most of which hold largemouth bass, and many of them sizeable bass. Big predatory, alpha bass, were the epitome and sole member of the “big fish” category for me. They dominated my little boy imagination. I understood on an intellectual level, that there were fish in Utah, and that some of them were worth catching, but those were trout and unknown to me.
At 9, I was unequipped to grapple with the substantive changes coming my way, but I could, and did, fixate on the fish. Brawling bass and effeminate trout became proxies in the battle of familiar vs. foreign raging in my subconscious. As the moving-van backed down our driveway, I wasn’t thinking of the relationships that were ending, or the places that would henceforth be only memories. I agonized instead over the big fish I’d not yet caught, and now believed I never would. For them I wept big, hot, bitter tears.
My nephew Grant will never suffer such pitiful regrets.