Mami’s Little Mermaid, by Erin Rounds

When Erin was working on her personal narrative, she started by making a various timelines of how her story could go. Eventually she settled on this one:

  • Packing up the car
  • Arriving at the lake
  • The dock
  • Victory

Once she had her timeline, she just typed right into it, stretching each part out with lots of detail (dialogue, actions, thinking, and images). 

This is the same process that lots of students can benefit from when planning a story, then drafting.

Packing up the Car

It was going to be a glorious day at the lake. The sun was shining and cotton clouds dabbed the sky as we finished loading the car. Upon helping to pack the sand toys into the trunk, Erli spotted her Ariel the Little Mermaid swimming vest. “Mami, I’m bringing my swimming vest?! I’m going to swim in the deep water!”

I smiled. This has been a summer of independence and dare-devil stunts. Erli is an aerial artist on her rope swing, flips herself upside down on rings, climbs trees, and scales rock-climbing walls. Her declaration did not surprise me. “You know,” I mentioned nonchalantly, Silver Lake has a diving dock so you can jump into the deep water.”

“Really?! Oh, I’m going to jump off the dock, because I’m a big girl.”

It was true, at four and a half years old, my daughter has grown fiercely independent, mature, and a bit head-strong and defiant. The dock was all she talked about on our drive to pick up Auntie Heather. It was all she must have thought about as soon as we arrived in the parking lot.

Arriving At the Lake

            We unpacked, and Erli was more helpful than even usual, offering to carry more than possible for her tall athletic frame, so that the adults wouldn’t have to make two trips to the car. “You’re in quite a hurry,” my sister commented.

“Come ON,” Erli whined. “I want to jump in the deep end.”

As soon as the last towel was laid out, Erli grabbed my hand and pulled in the direction of the dock. “Grab my camera,” I called out over my shoulder. Erli had already buckled her vest, and a determined spark lit up her dark brown eyes.

The Dock

            My fearless diva stood at the edge with me, watching the big kids dive and plunge beneath the dark waters.

She was smiling, but her eyes looked a little uncertain. “Mami will you catch me?” she asked in her most precious princess voice, sincerity tugging at my heart.

I had hoped for a big independent leap I’d be able to capture forever with a quick click, a small vested body in mid air, then applaud furiously from the dock, dry. But amid all her summer boasts for Mami to “Come look!” “Mami, watch THIS” I was still needed, as a mommy not an audience. “Mami, will you catch me?” My daughter was willing to leap out into the unknown like the big kids, as long as I was there to catch her. I can barely carry Erli anymore; she’s so tall and heavy. I felt like I’d blinked and all of a sudden my tiny Snuggle Butt was an adventurous girl standing on the dock beside me.

Half blind from taking my glasses off (I haven’t worn contacts in about two years), I ran and dove in, a nostalgic surge of summers past coursing through my veins. I held out my arms and tried to coax her in. Erli was nervous, her bravado fading as she inched closer and closer to the edge. Despite my outstretched arms, she hesitated. Finally, she sat and scooted her butt so that she sat on the edge above me, her feet dangling. We counted one last time, “1,2,3!” and Erli fell into my arms and bobbed under the water. She popped back up, surprised and scared, until she realized her vest allowed her to float.


            Soon my little mermaid was kicking and splashing alongside me, proud and beaming, and I had all the photos of the sequence, thanks to Auntie Heather’s quick shooting. There’s a great one of Erli standing on the dock after she’s come up the ladder: one hand confidently grasping the rail, a dancer’s toe pointed out, her hip thrown to one side, gazing out at the lake with this pose of triumph. I don’t know if next time she’ll look out and jump with abandon, all on her own. I do know that she still needed me that day, and I’ll always be here to catch her.


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