As readers of my new book “The Other Mother: a Rememoir” now know – my mermaidenhood is fishy, to say the least. I come clean in the book, as all memoirists should. There’s a whole chapter disclosing how my scaly side came about and I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the book for you by giving away any important details.
Instead, this is a blog about consequences. My publisher, Susan Kammeraad-Campbell, is a big believer in mermaids herself so she saw no harm in putting proof on the invite that we mailed out to supporters and friends of Byrne Miller – my other mother. I figured it’d come out soon enough anyway, since its one of the photos actually in the book.
What I didn’t count on is the whirlpool of confusion it would create for two of my favorite little girls in the known universe. Ann is a 10-year-old who lives in Beaufort (top photo) and Marina is my niece, ( bottom photo) an almost 9-year-old who lives in Florida. Both girls saw the invite with my mermaid picture. Both girls were shocked – for different reasons.
For Anne, it was more about the picture. She’s never known me before I dyed my hair black, so there’s that issue. (It seems a lot of people have that issue. I’m so not a blonde anymore. Just accept it.) She’s also never seen my mermaid tail. And that’s a problem, since we are swimming buddies who spend hours each summer cavorting in the creek behind my house. I’ve always told her I was a mermaid, but she wrote it off as just another inane thing her silly friend says to make her laugh. I’m not sure how it’s going to play out. Anne came to the launch but was suddenly shy, as if she wasn’t sure who the heck I really was anymore.
Marina had seen the picture before. She was scared that by putting it on the invitation everyone would find out and it wouldn’t be a family secret anymore. We have lots of secrets in my family – this is probably the only good one. My mermaidenhood is something like an exclusive club – even her older brothers are sworn to secrecy. Her concern is entirely logical, given that the reason I’ve always given her for my tail not showing itself anymore is that I’ve been suspended by mermaid management. On account of the first time my nephews saw my tail, in the bathtub, conveniently captured in the photograph. It happened before Marina was born but such is the way of legends.
And now I’ve gone and blown it. Outed myself. Normally when I do stupid things I ask my younger sister Jenny to help get me out of trouble. Before my suspension by mermaid management excuse, Jenny told the boys that the reason my tail isn’t visible to anyone but family is because of the secret (suntan) lotion I carefully smear all over every time I swim. Earlier this summer, when we had a family girl’s trip to Weeki Wachee and saw a mermaid show where some of the performers did NOT have tails, it was Jenny who explained that river and spring mermaids are different. She’s always got my back, or tail as the case may be.
Marina turns nine this weekend and for her birthday she wanted a “mermaid encounter” at Weeki Wachee instead of a party. Weeki Wachee closes for the winter so Jenny booked the “encounter” for last Sunday.
I was supposed to go, along with my mermaid sister Lolita, but a blown tire blew our chances. We had to content ourselves with a phone call after the “encounter.” The conversation with a very tired little mermaid went something like this:
Me: I’m so sorry we missed it. We wanted to swim down the Intracoastal but even with our tails it’s too far.
Marina: That’s okay Auntie Mermaid. I had fun anyway.
Me: Did you get to swim with a mermaid?
Marina: Yes, her name is Christa.
Lolita: Oh Crista – we know her.
Me: (silently) way to go Lolita!
Marina: Is she a friend of yours too Auntie Mermaid?
Me: If I remember correctly, she has blond hair…or maybe blondish brown… or
Marina: Yes! She has blond hair and it gets kinda brown when it’s wet.
And so, thanks to both my actual sister and my mermaid sister, Anne still thinks I’m silly and Marina still believes I’m a mermaid. Now if I can just make sure neither one of them reads the book until they’re, like, twenty….