Spoiler-alert…if you choose to read this blog you will find out one of the deep dark secrets in my upcoming memoir “The Other Mother.” I am a mermaid. Ask two out of my sister’s three kids and they’ll confirm it. They’ve even seen my tail. The original sighting happened just once, years ago, in the bathtub of my sister’s Orange City Florida home and because of that mermaid transgression, I’ve been on long-term suspension by mermaid management.
I had to have some answer to the question that has plagued me ever since: when do you get your tail back? That it isn’t up to me has been a good enough excuse to satisfy my two nephews (the oldest one until he turned 15 anyway.) But it didn’t seem fair that only the boys had actually been to Weeki Wachee Springs and seen the live mermaid show that started my nickname of Auntie Mermaid.
Well, I finally got to take my 8-year-old niece on a girls weekend where I introduced her to the wonders of her mermaid heritage. She too, believes she is a mermaid. After all, her name is Marina Teresa, after her aunt. She has personally applied the magic suntan lotion to my legs so that her Auntie Mermaid’s tail becomes invisible to anyone but other mermaids. We wouldn’t want any non-family members to find out my secret and ruin it forever. But eight years is a long time to go without meeting another living, swimming mermaid.
I don’t know which one of us was more excited, me or Marina. I love the fact that Weeki Wachee is a piece of old Florida, charmingly hokey while still a natural oasis. But I was a little worried that the whole park would seem stale and boring to a kid raised on special effects and amusement parks like Disney in her backyard. I should have had more faith.
The first Weeki Wachee show was, of course, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” Marina sat next to me in the underground amphitheatre with its glass wall looking out an actual fresh-water spring. The curtain rose with a cascade of bubbles and when they cleared, four nubile mermaids waved back at us, their long hair drifting in unseen currents.
For the first few minutes Marina was so entranced she couldn’t talk, and then the questions never stopped. “Is she your friend too?” and “I think her tail is the most beautiful, don’t you?” were easy. When, during the second show, the emcee explained “how they do it,” Marina’s questions got trickier. We decided that fresh-water mermaids have to use little tubes to get air because they’re used to salt water. The girls with legs instead of tails are just actresses pretending to be real mermaids, or else they use the same super secret leg lotion I do to keep their tails invisible.
I would gladly slather myself in mermaid lotion forever to hold onto the magic of our Weeki Wachee weekend. One day Marina might think her Auntie Mermaid delusional and embarrassing, but for now she swears she wants to grow up and be just like me. Except for one thing. Instead of writing stories about what it’s like to find an “Other Mother,” Marina plans to write a book about being a mermaid.