Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Aquarina Springs

A few days ago, I was up in the dusty attic rummaging through boxes of childhood treasures - nekked Barbies and Kens, 2 troll dolls (man and wife - the "man" had his bright yellow locks snipped off), Campfire beads, old dance costumes...  I came across a little coin purse that I purchased as a souvenir during the late 60's.  It had sunk to the bottom of the Rubbermaid tote, but a tiny gleam between a couple of Barbie legs brought it to my attention.  The coin purse!  Oh, the coin purse!  Rich, vivid memories swirled in my brain as the sweat from the attic heat trickled down my back.

I present to you, The Coin Purse:

Gone are the 4 teeny tiny seashells that had captured my little girl heart.  Gone was little insert that said something that I can't quite remember.  Perhaps it was the name of the tourist attraction, but the space is so small I rather think it must have been "Carolyn."  Yes, "Carolyn."  Most likely it was my name coupled with the tiny seashells that won the day as I, after placing a dime in it to make sure that it wouldn't fall out through the tiny holes and testing the snug snap of the clasp, turned over my saved up allowance to be able to call the golden beauty mine.  I dreamed that the coin purse had been brought up from the depths of the deep blue sea by mermaids who had carefully chosen and placed each gleaming, artificially-colored shell from a treasure chest they kept in their absolutely dreamy coral kingdom.

In San Marcos, Texas, alongside I-35, there once was a little piece of heaven known as Aquarina Springs.  I was a bright-eyed little girl in a home-sewn shorts set, white keds, and bobby socks just about to wet my pants in excitement about the time that the blinker started signaling the San Marcos exit off of the highway.  For about 20 miles before the exit, signs teased travelers with billboards proclaiming "Mermaids drink cokes under water!"  "Mermaids performing graceful water ballets!"  "Panoramic view from the Sky Ride!" and "Glass Bottom Boats!"  Oh, yes.  A little girl with $1.50 of saved up allowance "spending money" jangling in her elastic-waisted shorts pocket would be wild with anticipation by the time the Vega Station Wagon eased off of the Interstate.

Jumping from foot to foot impatiently in the ticket line my little blonde head bobbed with excitement.  Hurry, Mom!!!  Hurry!!  The ballet is about to begin!  Under water ballet!  I had taken yeeeears of swimming lessons at Campfire camp.  I knew how hard it would be for a dainty mermaid to swirl and twirl around at the bottom of the deep end of the mermaid pool holding her breath!  Holding her breath, for Pete's sake!!

Once inside the park, no glass bottom boat, Sky Ride or swimming pig could distract me from her mission.  On to the mermaids!!  On to the water ballet!!  On to the consumption of a coke down in the depths of mermaid world.  As I sit here today, I can't remember if the observer platform with seats lowered down magically exposing a glassed-in viewing area or if I skipped down steps into a sunken cavern.  I'm going to go with the "magical lowering" because it seems to be true to my memory.  Yep.  I'll go with "magical lowering."

Sitting wide-eyed on the edge of my chair, I was enchanted by the mermaids  as they began to appear from secret caves.  There they were.  Swimming with the fishes like it was a perfectly normal thing to do on a hot Tuesday in July.  Oh, what bliss!  

You can imagine my surprise when they not only drank cokes (Texas talk for "sodas" or "pops") but also casually snacked on grapes and bananas.  It seemed that we had just happened upon a mermaid party in the crystal blue waters of the Pacific.  I ignored my mother as she pointed out strategically placed air hoses that kept the mermaids alive.  Unnecessary reality for a romantic child like me. 
from (a truly fascinating read!)

Watching the mermaids, I tried to memorize their graceful moves and twirls.  Kristi and Penny would be eagerly awaiting my return to Carthage.  Water ballet was one of our favorite pastimes in Carthage's small, rectangular city pool.  I was anxious to get back and choreograph our next performance.  With a tiny, magical coin purse clutched in my tiny hand.  The coin purse bearing a quarter that henceforth would be tucked into my Easter purse every Sunday morning.

Coin-purse-at-the-bottom-of-the-box-beneath-a-pile-of-Barbies, you brought me a smile and happy, happy thoughts in the sweltering attic the other day.  And, I thank you.  Here - have a quarter!

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