It is a nautobiography about a family of mermaids that lives just off the coast of Southern California in a charming little village called Coralsbed.
I think I will share it here in weekly installments leading into the holidays. It might make a nice contrast to the wonderful frosty things we expect this time of year. For your reading pleasure:
A Mermade's Tale
Finding a Lovely Shell
Being born and growing up near the beach gives a person a great affection for all things nautical. One mer- (that’s French for ocean) made was like that, only a little ways off-shore. Had she been born to the east of the tideline on the Southern California coast, she would have, like totally, been a Valley Girl. But as luck would have it, Shell came from the warm waters of the Pacific and that is where her story sets sail.
At the edge of the sea, there was a small village called Coralsbed, and in it lived a number of mermade families. Some were large and some were small, some lived in fine and fancy sand castles, and others in smaller cozy ones. There was a market, a five and dime and a fuel station. Coralsbed had a fountain, a lovely green park filled with sea grass, sand and toys for mermade children to play on. There was a fancy old restaurant called the Twin Fins that had two large seahorse statues outside, where folks came to eat fried sea chicken dinners. The village had a charming library filled with all kinds of books, and near a stinky lagoon there was a beautiful kelp forest.
One of the families in Coralsbed was the Planktons. The father, Abalone, was the principal of a school of fish in the neighboring village of Oceanside. He was smart and worked hard to keep their yard and mer-tormobile clean. The mother, Nekton, was a perky brunette and a good cook. She loved to dress up her three beautiful children. Shell was the oldest and she was a lovely creature with hair the color of sand, eyes like kelp, a flippy turquoise tail and a beautiful voice that reminded you of soft breezes blowing across crashing waves. She had freckles on her nose and cheeks from playing in the afternoon sun. Next was Sandy, who was three years younger than Shell. Sandy was funny, determined and she looked like a smaller version of her sister. She took good care of her dolls and was a true friend. The baby was Brine. With his big brown eyes and infectious laugh, he was loved by all (even when he got into his sisters’ things.)
The Planktons lived in a cozy sand castle that you might think was small, but to Shell, it seemed very large indeed. She and Sandy shared a room and Brine had his own little nursery. They each had a toy chest and their own seabed and the room was painted a pretty blue that looked aqua in some light and lavender at other times. In their undersea yard, their parents had put up a swing set, yes, mermades like to swing too. They lived on the north end of the village, not far from the kelp forest.
Pearl was the first true friend found by Shell and she was a treasure. Crowned with fiery red hair, she lit up the waves and taught Shell to color in the lines (while listening to Debussy’s La Mer of course), later introducing her to a wavy equivalent of rock-and-roll. Pearl had a particular fondness for a band called the Sea Monkees. Together they learned to make peace with a crabby hermit classmate, picked seaweed out of the garden and taught Shell’s sometimes-pesky little sister Sandy to swim in deep water, a skill that would come in handy later. Pearl had a cheery mom named Oyster, a dogfish and a dad, Dock, who would later break an off-shore speed record on his mer-torcycle.
Shell and Pearl were in the same class at school. Their teacher Mrs. Angelfish was a kindly older mermade who tenderly looked after the little ones in her care. She made sure they had a little snack of oyster crackers in the afternoon to keep their energy up and on hot days, when they came in from recess, she would have them put their heads down on their desks and place a wet kelp leaf on the back of their necks to help them cool off.
Mrs. Angelfish taught her class many important things; Shell’s favorite subject was art. She loved learning how to write the color words, especially when Mrs. Angelfish let her use colored crayons. She wrote “red” with a red crayon and “blue” with a blue one. The teacher showed the class how to make paper sand castles and let them draw pictures of their mothers. The one thing Shell did not like was numbers. When it came time to count, her brain shut right off! She just wanted to paint and that was all. She enjoyed swimming out to recess with Pearl and playing bubbleball and other games with the mermade children.
When Shell and Pearl were not in school, they played Go Fish, except they really did it, and of course swimming was their very favorite thing to do. Pearl’s neighbors, the Finnlers, had a beautiful built-in tide pool and sometimes Pearl, Shell and Sandy would spend the afternoon frolicking in the clear blue waters. Another friend, Foam, had a seahorse and occasionally they would get lucky and take turns riding it. They didn’t pay any attention to boys at that time, considering them little urchins who just wanted to show off their mussels. They dressed their bobbing dolls and went to school to learn their tides tables; now and then winning a shelling bee. One day a week, after school, they attended Piermerry classes where they learned to be good and kind and to help others.
Shell came from a family of distinguished mer-people who had long ago built great sand castles and ruled the seas. Their coat-of-arms from olden times had three beautiful scallops on a diagonal band. But Shell’s world was a little pool filled with family and friends. She was a young merchild, blissfully unaware of the turbulent currents of the meradult world. Creative and determined, she just wanted to play in the ocean and have fun. And unlike other more famous mermaids, she enjoyed being herself and loved her life in the sea.
Here is a coloring page of Shell at a carnival fishing booth, it is like one I will tell you about in the next chapter.