Photo: Anne Lawrence, Malibu, CA, 2019

“Write about mermaids,” says the almost 10-year old.

“What’s interesting about mermaids?” asks the mom.

“I can’t answer, because you’ll take my opinion!” Wise. She’s right. I was hoping she’d answer.

Mermaids are her current obsession, but why? Honestly, I do want to know. I have a few theories. Mythical creatures are always fascinating, but ones that are also girls or that change from teenagers to mermaids when wet (H2O, Just Add Water), are irresistible. We could talk about the hybrid state, between the land and the water, between human and magic and how it relates to being between childhood and pre-teen, between school and home, between the digital and physical.

There is the fantasy element, swimming and living under the water with all of the powers and responsibilities that come with wielding magic. In the summer, she has a cloth tail that fits over her swim suit as she practices her dolphin kick. Floating, swimming, soaring underwater has a powerful pull on the imagination. Flipping, splashing, weightless, until breathless, imagining a long smooth tail that moves with grace and agility.

In her stories, the mermaid is not trapped in either place, but can run as easily as she swims. She is suspended between worlds, avoiding detection, hiding secret powers and the joys that come with just being who you are. I think she didn’t want to talk about it because she’s a mermaid.

Writer, researcher, observer