Could you be from the sea?


There’s an audio book I get from the library for my kids — Maynard Moose’s Tales. It’s a version of the trickster tales but super silly, the reader pronouncing everything with lisps and mis-conjungations. He’s brilliant, silly and highly addictive. My kids have memorized his entire Uglified Duckling script.Where he gets me most is when he asks the listener, “did you ever get the feeling you were a deer being raised in a family of sharks?” Well, sure! Where do we come from? Where do we fundamentally belong? I have been asking myself this question for a long time — at Catholic college where I was the only non Catholic; at graduate school where I felt like a total fraud, and now in Atlanta, where I’m the only woman in the zip code who never pledged a sorority.I must have crawled up from some strange shore, right? That may be the reason for my sense of kindred spirit with mermaids. Though they seem to be perfectly at home in their ocean element, what about when they step ashore? When they’ve had to relinquish their voice? Get hauled aboard a ship? It’s never for the mermaid’s good in the end, even if Prince Eric waits at the top of the overhanging crow’s nestI’d like to come ashore as a REAL Atlantan, as someone who belongs. But I’m a Midwesterner. And not even a good one. I’m half English. I lived enough of my life in the UK to mispronounce everything in school and to be teased on the bus for “going home to tea.” That kind of thing stays with you.

I suppose the good thing is that Atlanta has enough transplants that every other household is from Alaska or Amsterdam. But I still hope I’ll find my place here. My not really American not really Southern not really Catholic not really grad student place. I’m a mom now, and I do my best to tell my two kids to be themselves. They should. They shouldn’t let their classmates make the rules for them. I think I must have made a mistake somewhere to feel so out of the element so often. I’ve been here eleven years and it’s still like someone just hauled me in wiggling, from a river.

My parents hardly visit. My sister has become a recluse. My husband has no siblings, we seldom have a houseguest, and those we do have are often phobic of the children. Hard to know with all that what is the right way to be a supportive parent and a good neighbor and a productive American.

My solace is to write fiction  —  often, it turns out, abut others who don’t fit in. Or do, but only after the trial of being dragged up onto shore. Is it their choice they came up with the dredge? Did they mean to be discovered in a fish net? To become mortal and marry the boy with the perfect teeth? Who knows. I stare at oceans still, and at rivers, wondering. What’s under there? Is there something waiting, coming to shore for me?

A great list of YA mermaid tales

Many of these are retold fairy tales and/or fantasy. Love to see this done with a crime/mystery angle.