In 1993 two important events happened in my young (then 9-year-old) life. First? Baby Einstein was born and the world became a better place.
Second? Free Willy swam into theaters. And my heart. And changed my life…for a couple of years.
I’m not over-exaggerating that movie’s affect — effect? I never remember — on me. I was 9. And impressionable. And looking for a career path, apparently.
But wait, you say, “didn’t you always want to be a writer?” And you’re correct there, I did. At age 3 I wanted to be a bus driver though. Dreams change.
So I saw this movie. And all of the sudden, the only job that sounded like it made ANY sense at all to me was that of a marine biologist. I wanted to work at Sea World or a zoo or anywhere I could feed and train and hang out with whales and seals and dolphins.
Related? The only song I was waiting to hear them play on the nonstop playlist of his songs they had on the radio after Michael Jackson’s death was the one from this movie.
Here’s a refresher.
So anyways. The years passed and I realized I sucked at science and my career plans changed. I joined the newspaper staff at my school in eighth grade and never looked back.
But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t lost my love for sea creatures. The ocean still has a special place in my heart and so do most of the things that live in it.
And for several years now, I’ve wanted to go to an aquarium to pretend for a day that I’d gotten that job I’d wanted when I was 9.
Cut to our Boston trip, a day Rachel had to work and couldn’t entertain us and an awesome aquarium that my traveling partner (and Ines) were game to hit up with me.
We saw penguins (some were on vacation, but the babies were still there!) and seals that did tricks and I pet a stingray and OMG I think I want to be a marine biologist again.
Or, I mean, just work at an aquarium.
So before we get started on the magical tour of the aquarium…. Sami and I had something to check off the scavenger hunt list. Picture with a penguin.
OK. So the very first thing we did not long after walking on the door? PET A MOTHEREFFING STINGRAY.
Look at this childlike joy I am expressing as we watch them swim out to us.
Seriously I am ecstatic as hell.
OMG here they come. I think I was the oldest person at this exhibit by at least 20 years (not counting Sami and Ines).
They feel so weird. Rubbery and squishy and I can’t believe it was one of these things that took out the Crocodile Hunter. R.I.P. Steve Irwin.
Sami and Ines tried it out too.
Then it was on to the jellyfish room. They’re hypnotizing to look at.
See, here’s Sami, hypnotized.
Baby Penguins! I think they were pissed they didn’t get to go on vacation, btw.
Here’s Sami being all anthropological with some seal skulls.
We stayed and watched these seals FOR.EV.ER.
Then we remembered there were more fish to see.
So, Sami took oceanography last year at college and in addition to providing some of the greatest Tweets I’ve ever read, she learned lots about the ocean. So much so that she never wants to enter the ocean again and can differentiate whale sounds. And impersonate them.
Case in point.
Here she is communicating with fish.
And singing to the Dory-fish.
There were lots of Finding Nemo references that day.
Among the other sights of the day? A scary piranha. (Seriously they just sit there and look creepy).
An electric eel.
And the delicious but ugly salmon.
Aw, that’s a horrible picture to end on. So here’s a better one.
You guys, when I was at that aquarium, I was so happy.
Did I regret abandoning my childhood dreams of whale/dolphin training? Nah, not really.
Did I want to steal a seal or a baby penguin? Yes.
And I wanted to watch Free Willy.