Congratulations to one of our 2017 Smile Scholarship Winners, Miss Shelby White. Shelby has had a great career at Tupelo High School and impressed us with her resume and her essay that you can read below. As she said best, “laughter in life, even in the face of pain and loss, makes me smile”.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved two things above all else: animals and having dinner at my grandmother’s house. At my grandmother’s dinner table, we tend to share stories that are painfully funny and immeasurably embarrassing. Recently, the talk of the table has been about my wild obsession with fish that I developed at age seven.
My mother has always had a healthy respect for my love of animals, so she spared no expense when it came to getting me the nicest fish tank Tupelo’s PetsMart had to offer. After a considered argument, some strenuous debate, and a healthy round of begging, I came home with a large variety of fish that day. A few days passed, and my new fish friends were settling into their new home when some of them began to die. I cried every time I saw one floating at the top, but luckily, PetsMart has one heck of a return policy on their fish, so young Shelby White was able to take her dead fish back and trade in for new ones.
Weeks passed and my mother, bless her heart, could not figure out what we were doing wrong to these poor fish. The PetsMart employees coached us on how exactly to fix the fish water and precisely when to feed them. A couple more weeks passed by and my mom sat down on my bed with me and said, “Shelby, I just don’t know what to do. Why do you think your fish keep dying?”
This really got me thinking. After reflecting on all the fish tips we had learned, I could not give her an answer as to why all my perfectly healthy fish died a few days after we got them home. I looked at the tank and then at her, and said, “You know, momma, I just don’t know. I feed and pet them every single day.”
My mother’s face revealed the horrifying truth. It was me all along. What I thought was fish love and affection was the very thing that was killing them. Never did it occur to me that fish do not take well to being pulled out of their water and plopped into a pair of hands, regardless of the love behind it. Too embarrassed to return to PetsMart and explain, my mother had the bright idea that my grandfather could just give us his leftover minnows. Yes, that is right, the minnows that avoided being fish bait that day found their new home in my extraordinary tank. With the unshakable pride of a seven year old, I was not embarrassed by my minnows, who eventually made it to Ms. Dye’s first grade show and tell. Well, “made it” may be too generous a phrase. Fish apparently do not thrive for long in apple juice containers, which was their mode of travel that day, and elementary hallways. I parted with them in a Rankin Elementary bathroom stall.
For obvious reasons, I no longer keep a fish tank in my room. After many fish sacrifices, we realized that dogs were more my speed. I am thankful to have a family that loves me and jokes with me, despite my lack of pet-care knowledge. Having a family who shows me how to find humor and laughter in life even in the face of pain and loss makes me smile.