I’d heard the legends, though I didn’t believe them. Not until now. The eclipse passed us over somewhere in the afternoon, too far south for more than a bit of pretty light. This wasn’t why we went to the beach. We only sought an afternoon of fun, a cool breeze, and the reassuring smell of brine.
It wasn’t until I saw them I remembered the tales Grandma used to tell of the mermaids. “They only lay their eggs when the moon eclipses the sun. When the sea is strongest and the sun is busy fighting past the moon. They don’t like anyone watching, you see.”
I dismissed the idea. Even as a child I was convinced mermaids, if they were anything, must be mammals. Like us. Like dolphins.
Grandma shook her head. “Aye but a mermaid has the tail of a fish, not a dolphin. The bottom half is not a mammal, and that’s the end which lays the egg, after all.”
There was no winning with her, though I argued anyway. Most of my life this argument of ours carried, both of us convinced we knew more about the reproductive cycle of mythical creatures than the other. Neither of us acknowledging the futility of debating the science of fairy tales.
She died some years ago, before my child was born. So on this beach, after this eclipse, I tell my daughter Grandma’s mermaid egg story. She screws up her little face and giggles. “Mermaids don’t lay eggs!”
A moment later she looks doubtful, peering into nooks between the rocks, searching. “Just in case,” she tells me.
I smile, basking in her innocence, her sense of wonder. I remain in this smug, parental state until she finds them. A clutch of scaled eggs hidden in a swath of seaweed revealed by the ebbing tide.
We have just missed the mermaids, I realize, looking out over the endless sea. For once the water doesn’t strike me as empty; it is another world. All I know of it is but a false reflection of my own. I am not privy to the mermaid’s world. But Grandma, she was. Somehow.
My daughter leaps into the air with a whoop and rushes into a wave. No little girl will ever forget the day she found mermaid eggs. She’ll be the keeper of that story now, and I … I will be the person who never believed. Until today.