Caitlin Klütz is a 4th-year student at PLU, majoring in English with a writing emphasis, and minoring in Publishing and Printing Arts. She loves reading and writing fantasy-realism, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She likes creating and crafting, in her spare time. She currently lives in Fredrickson with her cat, Mystique.
The Mermaid from Vashon
One day, about 2008, my mother decided this weekend we would go to Grandma’s. She also told me we would go to one of the islands, Vashon Island. Grandma grew up there.
I remember having a great time on the trip down. We had to take the ferry; it’s the only way to get to the island. I recall standing on the upper deck on top, looking over the edge of the rail. Looking down, you could see why sailors had said that seafoam was deceased merfolk. The swirling edges would pool up in motion and then release, falling behind the boat. I thought about those seafoam-mermaids because, at the time, mermaids did seem to be one of the prime listings of wants for average 9-year-old girls.
My mother had told me to bring my coat with me when I was outside. “It’s gonna be windy and cold out there; it’s not quite summer yet,” she says, at the end of June in Edmonds, Washington.
As a 9-year-old, I wanted to tell my mother that I was part of the Merworld: “No, mother, I am finally home. My true home is the sea. I welcome the wind that cuts through my skin. The smell of salt fills my lungs; it’s refreshing. Like the sisters before me and below me, lost in the foam that spreads around—”
The wind was cold, cutting through me at this point. I went back inside the ship.
I looked for my family, finding them in a booth nearby. I pulled up a slightly rusted chair and sat down at the edge of the table. My little sister, four years old, dressed in a pink top and white shorts, snuggled up to my mother. Her brown hair was tied back with a clip. Across from her, sitting in the corner of the booth, my older sister was nose-deep into Twilight: New Moon. Next to her sat my Grandma, Donna. She gazed out the window, quietly responding to my mom’s comments or questions here and there. She usually wore light green, blue, or beige clothes, and today was no exception. Her eyes seemed to change from green to blue with the reflection of her glasses.
Out of nowhere, something clicked in my brain. “Just think…” A voice appeared in my head. Before I knew it, many voices were appearing at once. I looked at the water, where she was glancing to and fro. I sat up straighter, trying not to stare too much, but remained observant.
“What if…” I looked out at the inlet, paying attention to the voice inside.
“What if Grandma was a mermaid?”
I began to think about it.
Plausible evidence. Her house and walls were shades of green and blue. The color of the sea and ocean was around her at all times. She often wore strings of pearls around her neck or raindrop pearl earrings. The only time I haven’t seen them on her is if she’s getting ready for bed.
Mermaids and sirens are known for their powerful ways of luring men to their deaths or seduction by their voices. My Grandma has a singsong honeyed voice. She sings for many reasons. She sings songs to herself during mundane tasks, it wouldn’t matter where. But she also sings phrases that consist of something along the lines of, “Alright, let’s just-a get along now.” Silvery singing during an argument isn’t the thing I’d want to hear, but she sang anyway.
Maybe she never mastered the art of luring or convincing with her singing voice, but she still sang. Or, perhaps it just didn’t work on the land, only near the water.
She’s a big shell collector. Not shells from around the world, or fancy shells, just shells that she’s found on shores, for the most part. They are everywhere around the house: on the windowsill above the kitchen sink, hanging from tacks above the window. Shelves of seashells. There’s even a large conch shell sitting on a flat area of the bathtub. The conch white, with a pretty pink inside. Perhaps it was a way for her to communicate with other mermaids in the area. Maybe she’d fill up the tub, get in, and then use the conch as a phone to listen in or contact other mermaids.
The parks on the beaches prohibit it now, but she would like to take shells or shell pieces with her when she would walk.
A secret mermaid that went to and fro, her home in the sea and her home on land. Maybe she was tired of the ocean; one day just decided she would like to walk.
She likes to walk along the waterfront on the beaches in Edmonds. That’s one of her favorite things to do, to walk by herself. She enjoys walks to the park close to her house and her neighborhood but enjoys going to the beach most of all. I thought maybe she was tired of swimming around in Puget Sound. Perhaps she took potions that would trade her tail and give her legs instead. Or maybe she traded some shells for a spell from a merwife that could let her walk or swim anytime that she liked. That’s why she wore her pearls all the time; it was her switch.
Perhaps as she walked the beaches, she reminisced about the time that she spent in the water, growing up as a mermaid on the coast of Washington.
Puget Sound beaches aren’t like the typical beaches that you see on the coast, not in Washington, especially not in California. The waves are small; they lap on the sand and pebbles in short strokes. The smell of seaweed and kelp is potent, always on the shores.
Whenever my mom and sisters visited her in Edmonds, we would usually join her beach walks. My sisters and I would run ahead, looking for miscellaneous beach items. I’d usually pick up kelp with or without a stick and chase my sisters with it. I told them it was mermaid snacks. “Don’t run; it’s just mermaid food!” I tormented them through my giggles. They wouldn’t care for my explanations.
My sisters would tell me to stop, that it’s not funny, but who’s the one holding the kelp on a stick and watching their sister scream at an ocean plant? My grandmother laughed lightly and told me, “Oh, come on sweetie. Quit doing that to your sister.”
I defended myself, “It’s just mermaid snacks, Grandma,” jokingly.
She said in a tone that was hard to decipher, “Kelp isn’t mermaid snacks, honey.”
The thought stuck with me. I hesitated for a moment with my kelp-stick.
I still would try to chase my sisters and then get scolded and told to stop by my mother. But what my grandmother said still had me thinking, how would my grandmother know that kelp wasn’t a snack shared by the mermaids? What was a mermaid snack? Did she know?
Was my grandmother a mermaid from Vashon?