Goes A Mermaid-A Norfolk Tale
As seen in Southern Living Magazine! Fact and fantasy are woven together in this engaging new folktale of Norfolk Mermaids.
The Mermaids and Yellow Jack-A Norfolk Tale
As seen in Southern Living Magazine! Children's author Lisa Suhay has written a another tale that captures the imaginations of readers young and old.
By Teresa Annas
© August 30, 2009
The convention of mermaids started in the women's bathroom. Arriving early at Pretlow Library, Lisa Suhay pulled in three girls to don iridescent skirts with fins.
"We can't have a mermaid birthday party without mermaids," Suhay said cheerily as she passed out skirts and hair pieces in shades of tropical fish.
Kelly Dearborn, 14, had no idea she would be drafted to appear before an audience dressed as a legendary sea siren. Her shoulders drooped a little at the prospect of all those eyes staring at her.
"Is everybody ready?" said Suhay, author of several books about mermaids. She was at Pretlow in Ocean View on Saturday for a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Norfolk's brand image, the mermaid, represented in decorated statues all over the city.
"I'm not glittered," Kelly said. Suhay dusted the Maury High rising sophomore's face, shoulders and arms in pink.
"I'm very sparkly," Kelly said, glancing at herself in the mirror. "I'm nervous, actually. "
Kelly and the other two mermaids shuffled in slowly, taking special care not to trip over their fins. Because the skirts grew narrow at the ankle, it was impossible to take big steps.
As they walked in, Kelly 's eyes widened a little to see how the crowd had swelled to nearly 100, from babies to tweens with their moms and dads.
The sound of the applause was like the ocean's roar.
Suhay, a guest columnist for The Virginian-Pilot, welcomed the children and let them know that the city's Year of the Mermaid had just begun.
She led them in a dance to a mermaid song that allowed the little ones to pretend to swim and dive deep into the sea.
Kelly kept her poise when she was crowned queen of the mermaids, an honor she wasn't expecting.
Then Suhay read from her latest mermaid book, an expanded reprint of "There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale," sales of which benefit The Virginian-Pilot Joy Fund and St. Mary's Home for Disabled Children.
Some of the children already knew Suhay's version of merlife, how the mermaid statues are just apartments for the real mermaid, a shapeshifter who enters through the pipe support and escapes through her tears.
The book suggests that youngsters put their ears to the mermaid statues, so they can hear the ocean.
Kaylee Meggs, 6, has done that. She checked out Suhay's book umpteen times from the library and finally bought her own copy, said her mother, Joanne Meggs of Norfolk.
"We've been going around and looking at all the mermaids."
When Kelly was 5, she was even more into mermaids than Kaylee. She and her family spent that summer locating the artist-made goddesses and photographing her with each one. Over the years, as new mermaids showed up, she and her parents would drive out and photograph Kelly with them.
Bob Batcher, a city publicist, said he has never heard of a more devoted mermaid fan than Kelly, whose home features a mermaid shrine just inside the front door.
Watching the youngsters eat cupcakes and do crafts, Kelly, back in her denim dress, said she still likes mermaids but is getting more into playing cello and soccer.
"It's nice to see all the younger kids into the mermaid thing," she said, splashes of pink glitter still on her face and arms. "It's nice to see that people are still out there, looking for the mermaids."