Manatease! Grandma and Jackson’s Manatee Meetup
BY JIM JOHNSON
The family was basking in the sultry waters off St. Petersburg Beach. Jackson, our insatiably curious nine-year-old grandson was towing his Styrofoam boogie board through the surf. His grandma was nearby to keep an eye on him.
There was some commotion beyond Jackson. An aggregation of playful manatees had been spotted by some swimmers. (An aggregation is manatee-speak for group – kind of like a congregation but better swimmers). Jackson began to furiously plow his way through the pounding waves, but then realized his grandma would love to see them too. So, he yelled for her, “Mamo, there are some manatees. Let’s go.” Jackson was all about manatees.
On the drive to Florida we had talked about maybe seeing a manatee. Jackson, his brother and I had fun exchanging original manatee jokes. “How does a manatee start his car?” With a manaKey! “What does a manatee do for fun?” ManaSki! “What does a manatee do in the bathroom? Wrong! He takes a manaShower!
A manatee really is something to see. He is typically close to thirteen feet long and weighs about thirteen hundred lbs. He has two flippers, a big paddle for a tail, folds of flesh, deep set eyes and a puffy forlorn looking face. An elephant, his closest relative, beats a manatee in the looks department hands down. I sometimes wonder if the manatee was the last animal that God created. Maybe He began with a big mass of grey flesh, shaped up its bulging form but then said, “I’m tired – that’s good enough.”
One thing for sure, Jackson was determined to see those creatures and to share the experience with his grandma. She saw the people gathered near the manatees, but she also saw the relentless white capped waves that were coming her way. She figured that they would be aggregating in Texas by the time she and Jackson got out there.
She stopped and began to turn in defeat when Jackson pleaded, “Please Mamo, come on. Please. You can get on my boogie board and I will pull you.”
She tried anyway. She pushed through the waves, wiping the salt from her eyes, while Jackson bobbed around her like a cork on the water. But, it just wasn’t happening. She stopped and began to turn in defeat when Jackson pleaded, “Please Mamo, come on. Please. You can get on my boogie board and I will pull you.” Seriously? What a sweet boy but such a silly idea. She weighed far less than a manatee but far more than he could ever tow on his little toy. He didn’t have the muscle, but he sure had the heart. She had a heart too and it melted before such devotion. So, she turned and moved toward the creatures again but not before they began to move toward her. And they met. And they played together. And then they moved on. Texas was waiting.
Jackson was thrilled by his moment with the manatees and Mamo was loved by her moment with Jackson