Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Mermaids

The Mermaids gather at the pool’s edge. They huddle, giggle, hold hands, and jump.

The oldest Mermaid is eight, the youngest is five. Sometimes they wear little-girl bikinis, gingham or swiss-dotted, trimmed with flowers or sparkly sequins. Tonight, there’s been a competition, so the Mermaids are serious in blue and black lightning bolt team Speedos, caps and goggles. They decide to practice their starts, diving from the side. Some Mermaids are better at this than others. They emerge from the pool, dripping and grumbling, when the “adult swim” whistle blows. Five Mermaids sit on the edge at the deep end, talking and swinging their legs in the water, watching the clock as the oldest Mermaid announces “ten more minutes! OK, seven! Five more! Look, they’re changing lifeguards now, they’re going to blow the whistle!” The whistle sounds and the Mermaids tumble headfirst into the water, shrieking and laughing.

My seven year old son sits down on the lounge chair next to me. “Look”, he says, “the girls are practicing diving!” Mm-hmm, I say.

“Lisa’s a really fast swimmer, Mom. She’s six, and she can beat the boys!”

“I know, sweetie, she’s very talented”

“Tracy has nice hair. It’s all curly”

“Yes, her hair is very pretty. They’re all very pretty.”
They are all beautiful. Sturdy little bodies, unruly hair, shining faces. The Mermaids run hard, and they laugh with their mouths wide open.

My son’s friend comes to get him back in the pool and they join the Mermaids. It’s clear who’s in charge. All of the Mermaids have brothers, and ordering boys around comes naturally. My son and his friend are happy to comply. Dispatched by the oldest Mermaid, one goes to find a ball, while the other goes to ask a lifeguard to open the diving board. The Mermaids splash each other as they wait for their footmen to return. The oldest Mermaid devises a game involving catching the ball from the diving board and a complicated points system is agreed upon when the boys return.

The oldest Mermaid will turn 9 soon. Nine takes you out of the “8 and under” group and into the “9-10” group, where the girls begin to emulate the 11 and 12 year olds. What will happen when the Mermaids turn 11 or 12?

Maybe they’ll cover their mouths when they laugh.
Maybe they’ll walk instead of running.
Maybe they’ll cross their arms over their chests.
Maybe they won’t be so eager to race and beat the boys.

Not tonight, though. Tonight, it’s still sunny at 7:30. The pool is clear and blue and warm. The Mermaids take a break to share a bag of Skittles.

26 comments:

DCup said...

Heavenly writing. This absolutely captures it.

Cupcake is 9.

FranIAm said...

Gorgeous, beautiful writing.

Damn you are good.

And such a lovely tale!

dguzman said...

You're so cool, CDP.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

What a gorgeous post. I can close my eyes and see it all. I wish I was there and also that I had more children around in my life.

This one really got me.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

What a sweet slice of your life. Thanks for sharing.

CDP said...

Everybody--Thank you. I just loved watching those little girls last night, loved watching my little boy and his friend happily at their service, and loved writing about them.

Spartacus said...

Wonderful narrative, CDP. I especially liked your reaction to your son's interest in girls. Was it me or did I detect a "don't grow up so fast" tone in the words? Again...nicely done.

pistols at dawn said...

Skittles and bikinis? If I just ignore the ages, I like this. If I have to consider the ages, I don't feel comfortable anywhere near it.

Gnugs said...

I wish I was 8 again. But only for a couple of hours, and kept well away from child molesters...


Ahem....

CDP said...

Spartacus--definitely not just you! I love that he likes and respects the girls, but at 7, he doesn't need a girlfriend...

Pistols--if you detected a note of sadness in this post, it was my realization that eventually, one or more of the Mermaids will end up dating the Pistols of their generation.

Gnugs--ha! Present company excepted, right?

Matt said...

This brought me back to my childhood that was spent at the pool.

Also, don't worry about the 9yo changing. I'm 35 and I don't think the girls ever stop trying to beat the boys.

Matt
www.idealcrap.com

BeckEye said...

What a cute post. And I love your response to Pistols, that perv.

CDP said...

Matt--I hope not!

BeckEye--thank you (mwah!)

Sauntering Soul said...

This is one of the sweetest things I've read in a long, long time. Innocence is just so dadgum precious. I loved this!

CDP said...

SS--thank you!

DivaJood said...

Beautiful post, really lovely.

pistols at dawn said...

What can I say? Children make me uncomfortable.

Matty Boy said...

supernally good.

CDP said...

divajood--thank you!

Pistols--there were these two times, right, where children made me like really uncomfortable? I was giving birth to them.
(ba dump bump)

MattyBoy--thank you Professor.

The Guv'ner said...

Lovely :) I very much enjoyed reading that missy.

And I'm scared of kids! I have a theory they're really demons from another dimension.

CDP said...

Guv'ner--thank you, missy! (I actually have the same theory about cake-loving, Tequila-quaffing Scots!)

WM said...

Aah, it's like I'm right there with you.

susan said...

Congrats on a wonderful evocative post and for being there.

enc said...

Maybe, just maybe, they'll opt to stay Mermaids for a little bit longer.

This was the most lyrical, wonderful bit of prose I've read in a long, long time. Just superb.

CDP said...

WM--you have a mermaid, don't you?

Susan--thank you. Yes, being there was wonderful

ENC--Oh, I hope so. And thank you.

Distributorcap said...

are you watching Splash again!

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