BY MARY DONALDSON-EVANS
To our dear two-year-old granddaughter, Naomi.
This is a letter of apology. You don’t even know what that word means yet, but someday you will, and hopefully, you’ll be able to bring yourself to forgive Mimi and Grey for exposing you to the real world before you were ready.
You had been watching “Baby Shark” on your mommy’s iPhone every day before naptime. That cute little pastel-colored baby shark swimming back and forth with its momma, daddy, grandma, and grandpa didn’t look scary. Not at all! And when the child singing the baby shark song with its simple, catchy lyrics finished up by saying “Safe at last, doo doo doo doo doo, Safe at last,” you probably didn’t even know what that meant, didn’t guess for a moment that those harmless-looking little sharks might actually have been chasing anything—smaller fish, the child himself—in order to make a meal out of them.
“The tunnel was especially scary, with the sharks swimming on your left, your right, and over your head.”
Why, then, should we have been surprised when you were, um, less than enthusiastic when, with your Daddy (it was his idea, after all), we took you to the Camden Adventure Aquarium to see the real thing? By what perversion of the grandparenting instinct did we decide to destroy your baby shark fantasy by holding you close to the glass of the aquarium as huge grey Hammerheads, Boneheads, Silky Greats and Queensland sharks glided by on the other side, their eyes shifting back at forth and their teeth bared? Rather than pressing your little nose against the glass, fascinated, as we had hoped, you squirmed in our arms, turned your head away. The tunnel was especially scary, with the sharks swimming on your left, your right, and over your head. You began to cry, and you nestled your face in the crook of Grey’s arm.
“Yep,” you said. “Too biggy.”
Nor did we succeed in distracting you by showing you the sea turtles and the hippos, the jellyfish or the Hawaiian hogfish, or by leaning over the stingray pool, suggesting that you put your hand into pet its soft flesh. Daddy tried to get you to explain why you were unhappy. “Too biggy?” he asked, pointing to a shark. “Yep,” you said. “Too biggy.”
You didn’t want your face painted. The Christmas trees decorating the lobby didn’t interest you. You held Mimi’s hand as we walked past the last displays, towards the exit. But then we spied the coffee shop! We sat you on a high stool. Your black net tutu (what else does two-year-old princess wear on an outing with her grandparents and her daddy?) fanned out around you. We bought coffee for the grown-ups, milk for you, and warm sugar mini-donuts for everybody. You smiled as you bit into the donut, sugar crystals sparkling on your chubby cheeks. Ten minutes later, still smiling, you danced out into the sunshine, out of the scary aquarium like the ballerina you think you are, and Mimi and Grey heaved a sigh of relief.
Mommy tells us that you slept poorly that night. Were you dreaming of sharks? We’ll never know. But we do know that you’re watching a different video at naptime now. We’re sorry, Naomi! We’re not sure what you learned from the visit to the aquarium, but we do know that that excursion contained a lesson for us: two-year-old girls in black tutus may not be ready for up-close and personal interaction with Nature’s scariest creatures.
Camden’s Adventure Aquarium is a marvelous place. Kids—well, older kids, anyway—love it. It’s educational and fun and someday we’ll take you back. But for now, well, the goldfish flitting through the ten-gallon aquarium at the doctor’s office seems more your speed.
Mimi and Grey
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR – MARY DONALDSON-EVANS
Mary Donaldson-Evans is a retired French professor and a three-time grandmother. Her creative works have been published by CaféMom, The Lowestoft Chronicle, Diverse Voices Quarterly, BoomerLitMag, and The Literary Hatchet, among others.