Of wind and mer­maids

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Like many folks (es­pe­cially chil­dren of the ’90s), my ob­ses­sion with mer­maids started early. And we have Ariel to thank.

Dis­ney’s “The Lit­tle Mer­maid” had a strong hold over my young imag­i­na­tion; I can still re­cite scenes by heart. My 5-year-old self loved the movie so much that my par­ents could also give rous­ing mu­si­cal per­for­mances and act out var­i­ous parts — much like Spencer and I do now with “The Mup­pets,” our son’s best friends.

My screen­ings of “The Lit­tle Mer­maid” were such a con­stant that my dad, likely about to snap if he had to hear “Part Of Your World” again, would in­sist we needed to let the VHS tape “cool off” be­fore rewind­ing it for a third or fourth time. And we prob­a­bly did.

That was the orig­i­nal binge-watch­ing, back when my sis­ter and I had noth­ing but time and a steady sup­ply of bar­rel-shaped sug­ary drinks. With her vi­brant hair, cool col­lec­tions and hand­some boyfriend, Ariel was ev­ery­thing. Katie and I sat for hours belt­ing out “Un­der the Sea,” imag­in­ing our­selves puck­er­ing up to Prince Eric on a dinghy and liv­ing hap­pily ever af­ter. Un­der a rain­bow, of course.

Iron­i­cally, my sis­ter did marry a tall, dark-haired man named Eric. Co­in­ci­dence? I think . . . well, yes, it was to­tally a co­in­ci­dence. But let’s not ruin the fun.

As an adult, I usu­ally feel more like an­gry Ur­sula than cu­ri­ous Ariel. I’m also a for­ward-think­ing woman who can ques­tion the stan­dards of fem­i­nism and beauty women are pre­sented vir­tu­ally from birth. How about a doc­tor princess, Dis­ney? What about that? But any­way. Mer­maids! I met Tues­day with An­gela Mitchell, the Ch­e­sa­peake Mer­maid, for an up­com­ing fea­ture in Ch­e­sa­peake 360. The days I’m ex­cited to ride down to Solomons are, in­evitably, the crum­mi­est ones of all; it’s like na­ture knows I’m fi­nally get­ting out from un­der flu­o­res­cent light­ing, so it chan­nels an arc­tic wind to keep me in check.

And that wind? It was fierce. Fright­en­ing. If you’re like me, you missed some sleep this week won­der­ing if you’d wake to a pine tree com­ing through your bed­room win­dow. Even my un­flap­pable hus­band was a lit­tle freaked out, which made it worse. If Spencer is ner­vous, you’d bet­ter break out the emer­gency ra­tions.

By Tues­day, the winds had set­tled to oc­ca­sional gusts that rat­tled my car as I cruised closer to the Gover­nor Thomas John­son Bridge. The span scares me on a nor­mal day, be­ing nar­row and high and a bridge and all, but on a windy day? Well.

I con­sid­ered an al­ter­nate route. I con­sid­ered ask­ing An­gela to meet me on sta­ble ground in Lex­ing­ton Park. I con­sid­ered park­ing my car, breath­ing into a pa­per bag and hitch­hik­ing home.

But in the end? I’m a pro­fes­sional. And I didn’t want to keep the mer­maid wait­ing.

At its height, the bridge rises to 140 feet and spans 1.37 miles over the Patux­ent River (you know I couldn’t help Googling). I spent about 99.9 per­cent of that ride fight­ing off a panic at­tack, si­lenc­ing my ra­dio and star­ing straight ahead. Like any­time I’m ner­vous, I coached my­self through it.

“You can do this. You’re OK. You can do this. You’re OK . . .”

The wind was beat­ing against my win­dows, whistling as I crept to­ward Solomons. At the apex, the ground looks far, far, far away — which is when I al­ways get a tingly-feet sen­sa­tion akin to fall­ing. It hap­pens any­time I’m off the ground, whether on the first step of a lad­der or 103 floors up in Chicago’s Wil­lis Tower. On a glass bal­cony. Like a crazy per­son.

Noth­ing but a slice of pie will do af­ter that.

But I was fine, of course. Within min­utes I was back on terra firma with An­gela. We sat like con­ven­tional hu­mans for an hour, talk­ing about work and life and plans, but you know what I was af­ter. I was des­per­ate to see the fin. An­gela took me down by the board­walk, lift­ing the hatch of her ve­hi­cle to un­veil one of the pret­ti­est things I’ve ever seen. It was spec­tac­u­lar, shim­mery and gor­geous in the sun­light: a true mer­maid’s tail. We took pho­tos on the board­walk with that cold wind keep­ing spec­ta­tors away. And Ariel too, it seems. I still checked the wa­ter . . . you know, just in case.

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