On our recent trip to the beach, I plucked a pamphlet from a shelf of 200 others that boasted “Dolphin Tours.” Each one I looked at had gorgeous pictures of dolphins pirouetting through the waves, twirling in the wake of boats and smiling their toothy grins to the delight of equally smiling children and families lined up on a boat.
Call me “Sucker”
I called a few of the boat companies and by the early afternoon our whole crew was filing down a pier and onto a boat that guaranteed seeing a dolphin or “your money back.” We chugged slowly through the harbor keeping our eyes focused on the surface of the ocean waiting for a fin to slice the surface or a tail to gracefully flip spray through the air.
Thirty minutes into it my eyes are getting weary of staring intently at the unbroken water. The children began to swarm over the different areas of the boat in search of some kind of activity. Mummers of discontent began to slip out of the lips of the adults. The money spent, the time wasted all for the search of a dolphin.
Forty-five minutes we finally see a few gracefully arched backs break through and then they were gone. The guarantee fulfilled; a dolphin was sighted by our tour. You could also hear the tour guide sigh in relief that the obligation was done. There would be no refund.
For a moment I got caught up in the feeling of disappointment. Where were the dancing dolphins spinning in the air? Where were the strong tails petting the air in play? Where were the smiling grins to be echoed by my children’s own smiles? I glanced at my girls.
Annie stood at the bow watching the boat cut through the small waves of the ocean. Smiling.
Isabella stood beside her cousins watching them point at the pelicans flying nearby. Smiling.
Gracie sat on the steps to the second floor boat deck with a melting Popsicle in her hand. Smiling.
They had looked forward to getting to see the dolphins, but when there was no marine show they still smiled.
For them it wasn’t about searching for dolphins. It was the time on the boat. Time to do something new. Time to enjoy moments with the ones they loved.
I took my eyes from the search for dolphins and began to look at the horizon and the setting sun. The rays played on the wake from our boat transforming the churning ocean into sparkling water diamonds with a golden hue on surfaces unbroken. I looked at the American flag proudly waving behind our boat and recognized my freedoms in the country and the sacrifices provided to grant me that luxury. I looked towards my sisters chatting and laughing on a narrow seat, ignoring the beauty around them and embracing the beauty of family. I thought back to those dark moments this year and the times I didn’t think anything good could come of it and noted that I was spending a week lounging on the beach with a collection of sea shells my daughters had gathered beside me as I soaked in the warmth of the sun.
Above all I stopped searching for dolphins. Smiling.