Dolphins and Whales and Magical Things

The family and I went to SeaWorld this past weekend. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love SeaWorld. I love the shows, I love the touch tanks, I love the aquariums, and even though I can’t ride the roller-coasters anymore, I love watching the lucky riders go screaming by. Sure, I love the Magic Kingdom and all that is Disney as well but… The Magic Kingdom doesn’t make me cry. Yep, there you go. I admit it. I cry at SeaWorld. The dolphin show and the Shamu show get me every time, and the dolphin show in particular turns me into an emotional waterfall. I’ve lived within 30 minutes of the beach my entire life, and I’m currently ten minutes away and have a river in my backyard. I’ve felt an emotional connection to dolphins for as long as I can remember.

Growing up, I wanted to be a marine biologist/oceanographer. Even getting close to college, that was still my goal, yet I let my parents talk me out of it for something more “practical.” They said, “What are you going to do? Work at SeaWorld?” Yes! I wanted to work at SeaWorld! And I wanted to go out in the ocean and do research and swim with dolphins and sea turtles and humpback whales and right whales and finback whales and all those other wonderful, fascinating, breathtakingly beautiful creatures that swim in our seas. Surfing through television channels, an ocean-themed documentary will suck me in every time. And every time I catch a glimpse of a dolphin in the river (we are so close to the beach that the river is salt here), everything stops and I go outside to watch. And wish. And dream.

We are blessed to have dolphins pass by our little stretch of paradise regularly, almost like clockwork in the spring and summer. We don’t see them quite as often in the fall and winter. Shortly after DH and I bought this property, the first thing we did was build a dock. One night, we had eaten dinner at Chowder Ted’s, long before we even started building the house, and came over to the property to sit on the dock. It was November. DH had installed down lights on the dock for fishing, and we had those on and were just sitting on the dock with our feet hanging over the side, quietly talking. We heard a dolphin surface somewhere in the distance and strained to see it, but we couldn’t see anything in the dark distance. Moments later, a mama and calf popped up less than ten feet from us, did a little spy hop to check us out, looked at us as if saying, “Hi! Welcome to the neighborhood!” and then submerged. I guess they were attracted by the light and got curious. DH and I both held our breath, hoping they’d come back. After a few moments of silence I said, “Well, that’s worth the cost of the mortgage right there.” It was magical.

I’m not sure what it is that gets me. I tried to figure that out today when we went back for our second day, wondering it if wouldn’t hit me as hard. But sure enough, as soon as the dolphins entered the pool, the tears started coming. By the time the trainers really started interacting with them, I didn’t even bother trying to wipe the tears away because it was useless. DH even quit picking on me about it because he realized how emotionally affected I was by them. The dolphin show was incredible both days, but the first day the whales just weren’t in the mood. The trainers took the opportunity to talk to the crowd about how the training happens and how important it is to work with the animals at their own pace. I was really impressed with the way they handled the recent death of one their trainers. Before the beginning of the show, they showed an “Ask the Trainer” video, with kids asking questions about the whales and trainers answering the questions. The trainer that was killed was in the video several times, and I’m glad they didn’t pull her portion. After that video, they segued into a brief tribute to her, showing pictures of her interacting with the whales and dedicating the show to her memory. It was really beautiful.

The second day, the whales were far more into the show, and I saw that the girls enjoyed it much more. Sarah had been sitting in my lap for the whole show so she could see better, and towards the end of the show, she turned around with big tears on her face and told me that the whales were making her cry. I could tell this upset her, because I don’t think she understood why she was crying. I asked her if she was scared of the whales, and she said, “No, Mama. They’re really pretty and really funny, not scary.” Then I took my sunglasses off so she could see that I was crying too and told her, “Sarah, sweetie, those are happy tears. See how Mama gets them, too?” She just gave me a big hug, buried her face in my neck for a minute, and then turned back around to watch.

When I was putting the girls to bed tonight, we talked about the weekend and I asked each of them what their favorite parts were. That was tough question! Livvie’s two favorites were the dolphin show and the sea lion and otter show (it really was very funny). Sarah said her favorite was feeding the dolphins and the whale show “today.” “Today was better than yesterday,” she said. “And I think I know why I was crying now. The whale and the girl were having a relationship, Mama. That was really neat.” Yes, sweetheart, it sure was. Maybe one day you can grow up to have a relationship like that too. You can be anything you want to be. Dream big dreams and your wishes will bloom.


Becca said...

Hi Kelly, what a lovely story! I bet that moment you shared with your kids was far better than actually being a marine biologist. Who knows, you may get to experience that career with one of them in the future! If my parents didn't talk me into a more practical career, I'd be a concert pianist by now, but probably wouldn't have met my wonderful husband! Funny how things work out huh? Have a great week!

Contessa Kris said...

What a sweet story you shared. I've always loved the shows the few times we've gotten to Sea World. Your dd is right, the relationship is a beautiful thing. Maybe you should think of taking classes on marine biology, just for fun. You never know where life might lead you. Life isn't meant to be practical, just experienced.

circleinthesand said...

Oh what a wonderful story. I, too, love Sea World, tho I haven't been there in years. Sounds like Sarah has the same connection to those beautiful creatures that her mom has - that's awesome!! Love the pics of you and the girls - you have such a sweet family!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kelly~

Pintos, and now parents who wanted us to be "practical"!! How lucky your adorable daughters are to have such a cool mom who will encourage their dreams. And they in turn will encourage yours :)


Gina Lee Kim said...

I had to read this twice. Such a touching story. Nurturing our dreams is so very important.
p.s. thank you for your kind comment on Jenny Doh's site

Carey said...

Just reading the story made me cry..I am a big emotional type girl myself and I just know my twins are too. :)