“I have so,” I protested. “And I outgrew another pair of pants. I have to be tall enough now.”
He laughed. “Here’s the ruler. Let’s see how you measure up.”
I moved quickly into place, pressing my back flat against the panel and forcing my feet to not stand on tiptoe. “Am I tall enough?”
Dad put his hand to his chin. “Hmmm. Let’s see. I don’t know. It looks pretty close.”
Mom came to my rescue. “You’re tall enough, Lindsey. Happy birthday.” She gave me a hug.
“Oh boy! Can I take a ride now?”
“Yes, go ahead,” Mom said. “We’ll watch you from here.”
I got in line and watched the carousel spin ‘round. Craning my neck, I searched for the object of all my birthday wishes. She came into view. Hair, long and black, tied up in strands of beads. Arms, gracefully placed to lie across her body. More beads, draped around her neck and down her chest. Tail, circled so that her tailfin covered her stomach. The mermaid was beautiful. The most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I wanted to ride her so badly I could hardly wait.
The mermaid slipped out of view as the ride slowed and came to a stop. I followed the people in front of me as we made our way to the entrance. Finally, it was my turn. I gave my ticket to the man at the gate then ran as fast as I could to get to the mermaid. People scrambled this way and that as they tried to find their favorite creature to ride. I dodged left and right, trying to not get stepped on, as I hurried around to where I thought the mermaid stopped. My heart sank as I saw someone else sitting on her back.
I sighed and settled for riding a bird, a dumb old bird, for my first ride on the carousel all by myself. Four more times during the day, other kids outran me. Now, it was getting late and my parents were going to let me ride the carousel one more time before we left the park.
“Please, please, please, please, please,” I repeated in my head as my dad and I made our way through the crowd. “Yes!” I said out loud as I saw I would be the first person in line. Letting go of Dad’s hand, I started to run.
“Hold on,” yelled Dad. “You’ll need this.” He held out a ticket. I hurried back, grabbed the ticket then ran again towards the gate.
A line of kids grew behind me as I wished for the ride to hurry up and finish. At last, the carousel began to slow. The mermaid came into view and stopped right in front of the entry gate.
I tapped my foot waiting for the riders to exit. Finally, the attendant came to the gate. After handing him my ticket, I flew past him. Reaching the mermaid, I put my foot on the metal stirrup and hoisted myself up. My heart dropped when I thought I couldn’t get my leg over the seat, but I stood on tiptoe and managed to swing into place. An older girl came by and said, “Hey! That’s my ride. Get off.”
I wrapped my arms around the pole. “No, this is my turn. Go ride one of the birds.” Before the girl could say anything else, the attendant came by and shooed her on to a nearby ostrich.
Relaxing a bit, I put my hands on the pole and waited for the ride to start. After everyone was hitched in place, the carousel began to hum. Music began to blare over ancient speakers, and the carousel started to move.
After the first go-round, I waved to my dad. As the carousel turned some more, I gently touched the hair of the mermaid and traced some of the beads. At first, I didn’t notice the air turning a shade of blue-green. Or that the color seemed to be wrapping around me causing everything to fade from view.
When I did notice, I started to get scared. I wrapped my arms around the pole again. “Did the hair of the mermaid move?” I asked myself. I closed my eyes tight then felt the pole disappear and the seat drop from beneath me. Screaming, I waved my arms wildly trying to grab something to keep me from falling.
Hands caught my waist. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.” The soft voice came from in front of me. Tears fell down my face as I opened my eyes and saw the mermaid facing me. “Hello, Lindsey.”
Her long arms stretched out as she held me up, and her tail gently raised and lowered behind her back. I looked at the mermaid’s face. Her eyes were kind, and happy, and a little sad all at the same time. My breathing started to calm and I sensed that I was floating. As my fear eased up I was able to say “Hello.”
The mermaid smiled. “You’ve tried so hard to be with me today. I want to wish you happy birthday and give you a gift.” She removed her right hand from my waist and reached for one of the strands of beads circling her neck. My heart thumped in my chest as she put the necklace on me.
“Oh thank you!” I said, wrapping my arms around her in a big hug. “Purple is my favorite color. Thank you so much. Can we spend the day together, please?”
“No, not today, but I hope you’ll come visit me again.”
“I will. I promise.”
She gave my cheek a pinch then turned her head away. Her tail came from behind her to lift me up. I felt the softness of her give way, as she returned to her position on the carousel and became hard wood and paint again. The blue-green of the air faded away, and I saw my dad wave as the carousel went around.
I touched the mermaid’s hair as the ride came to a stop. After climbing down, I went to look at her eyes one more time. I could still see the kindness I saw before. “Goodbye,” I whispered.
“Come along, Lindsey,” I heard Dad say. I turned and walked down the exit to meet him. “Did you have a good time?” Before I could answer he asked, “Where did those beads come from?”
“The mermaid gave them to me,” I replied.
“The mermaid? On the carousel?”
“Yes! She came to life and gave me these for my birthday.” I smiled from ear to ear.
Dad shook his head the way he and Mom often did when talking with me. “Let’s go find your mother.” I took his hand and skipped alongside him as he walked.