We spent this Saturday afternoon at the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 in San Fransisco. We had gotten a free pass through our local library’s Discovery Go program and headed out to San Fran for a little fun in the unseasonable cold and fog.
With everything we’ve been dealing with, it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in the issues and forget to see my daughter for who she really is, a vibrant, smart, energetic, enthusiastic three-year-old.
Saturday helped. We watched sardines swim in glittering schools that turned and spun and flickered in the sunlit tanks. We watched them open and close their mouths, which is both freaky and cool. My husband and I watched Fiona try to unhinge her jaw to make the same faces.
We all loved the jellyfish exhibit. Their beautiful translucent, membrane thin bodies and delicate long tentacles rippled through the water as they moved. Opening and closing like an umbrella, if umbrellas were made of semi-liquid membranes infused with the exquisite grace of living water. We watched Fiona’s face light up as she tried to mimic their graceful motion. Arms up and down, trying to ripple with the fluid grace of a creature that lacks the constraint of bones.
(Looking over my shoulder, Fiona says, “The jellyfish were awesome!“)
We walked through the underwater tunnels, between schools of swimming fish. We stood for a long time in the shark tunnel watching the sharks and the manta-rays glide in their graceful, predatory way across and over and around us.
He clung to the plexiglass above our heads with thousands of tiny suckered feet. Walking slowly across. Never letting go with too many feet at a time, he moved almost ploddingly. Constrained by a protective exoskeleton, the starfish’s slow cautious stability seemed to me a perfect counter-point to the jellyfish’s fluid grace. As beautiful as the jellyfish was, I felt more like the starfish.
My normal is clinging on with as many feet as I can, picking up just enough to move forward. I cling to the moments where Fiona is doing a jellyfish dance, where my husband and I are sharing a conversation over dinner while she enjoys a homemade dessert, earned by eating enough bites of dinner, where Fiona and I share a snuggle, a joke, an idea, an experience. And I use all those little moments to move forward, slowly.
My normal isn’t the exquisite graceful jellyfish, much as I might wish it was, my normal is cautious, careful and protected. Mine is a starfish normal.