After discovering three jellyfish in the first twenty feet of my first walk on this beach, I passed through the Twelve Stages of vacation recovery. Denial: “This isn’t happening to us!” Disbelief: “I can’t believe we’re stuck for two weeks on a beautiful beach full of quasi-lethal invertebrates!” Evasion: “How long can I keep this news from my wife?”
V. is too young to understand the exquisite discomfort of a jellyfish kiss, so I didn’t bother explaining the off-purple blobs on the sand to her. I just steered her away, and she burbled along happily enough.
When Adinah woke up, I didn’t have the heart to tell her. I was afraid she would be afraid to go in the water. I was afraid to go in the water. I was even more afraid Anette would immediately insist that we pack up and go searching for another beach in Sicily. And after our missed flight, lost luggage and that €120 cab ride, moving to another spot just sounded like a lot of damn work.
But when I got her to myself, I told my gal about the jellyfish, which the Italians call ‘medusa.’ She said, ‘Then let’s just go to another campsite.’ I said, ‘Let’s just go to the beach and see how it goes.’
A few hours later, after chocolate cornettos and cappuccino, we strode bravely out onto the beach—a lovely stretch of sand, a long, shallow shelf with sand bars so kids can walk way way out, not too many people…in other words, perfect.
I screwed up my courage and told my oldest daughter there might be medusa. Adinah didn’t care, she said—she was ready to jump in the ocean. We asked the people on the beach: one burnt brown German couple said they’d been here two weeks and had only seen a couple of jellyfish. And despite all the splats in the sand I’d seen earlier in the day, I could only find one blob there now. So I showed it to V. I thought, ‘She has to know about them so she won’t pick one up.’ V. never wants to swim in the ocean anyway, and I was afraid that now she’s just have one more reason to stay out of the drink. Instead, she got a stick and tried to poke the thing. Jellyfish really do look like little piles of marmalade.
This was not the first time I realized that, as a parent, you have to be careful you don’t give your kid all of your own fears. They usually don’t need them.
Still, on that first day, Adinah walked into the waves slowly. Anette waded in a few inches at a time. I screamed ‘Banzai!’ and threw myself into the water faux-hysterically. V. laughed at me, then declined to get wet at all.
We stayed there for twelve days. By the end of it, V. was splashing around and swimming as fearlessly as the rest of us.
One day, a whole army of medusa did invade our beach. As soon as we saw them, Adinah said, “Let’s go get a net!’ We spent the rest of that morning hunting jellyfish. They really are beautiful little creatures….