We were supposed to be spending the day at the beach, then seeing more family for dinner before heading back on our eight-hour-long drive home to Atlanta in the morning, but I was having a tough time relaxing at the beach anymore after our little run in with the shark.
That’s right. The shark.
Before the shark, we were enjoying a rare day of calm seas and clear water—the kind of clear where you can stand waist deep and still see your nail polish on your toes sinking into the sand. We were out on a sandbar, water up to my hips and my daughter’s chest, only about 15 feet from shore, playing a mini game of tag. My mom was supposed to be joining us and I was worried she wouldn’t be able to spot us in the ocean, so I looked over my shoulder every couple of minutes toward the boardwalk where she’d be walking down to the sand. But the last time I looked, I caught something else out of the corner of my eye. I think my body started to react before my mind actually registered what I was seeing. I scooped my daughter up as high as I could get her around my chest and started running through the water toward shore. I looked down again and saw the shape—maybe four or five feet long—it was hard to tell as it curled up and turned just two feet from us. At some point, my mouth caught up with my brain and allowed me to yell ‘Shark’, hoping anyone in the vicinity would instantly accept that I wasn’t playing around. One look at me and they had to know this was no prank. I yelled it again, twice, as I cut through the water, praying we’d make it to shore before he decided to make a meal of us. We made it off the sandbar, through the drop-off where the water was above my head, and with all my might I climbed the ledge to shore where the water was only knee deep, but dropping my daughter as we reached the sand. She stared up at me, startled, flat on her back where I dropped her as soon as my brain computed that we were safe. I didn’t mean to drop her, but I think that last climb back on to shore, lifting my own weight and her 60-something pound body, was too much. The adrenaline was gone.
But we were safe.
Heck, we may have never been in danger to begin with. Odds are it was a sand shark, or nurse shark, and had no interest in making us the sampler of the day, but as a mom, all I could compute was shark equals dead, so get the hell out of the water.
Onlookers came over afterwards and checked on us. They said they could hear me yelling ‘shark’ all the way up to the boardwalk, about a football field away. Guess I was loud enough. But the lifeguard never moved. Not an inch.
My mom, who had just made it to the beach, was good with sitting in the sand for a while, but my daughter wanted back in the ocean after ten hot minutes and I just couldn’t let myself get more than ankle deep. Others were convinced the shark must have moved along, so they started swimming again, but I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t about to go back in the water. And I certainly wasn’t letting my daughter back in again.
So, we cut our beach day short and, with all the relatives working, figured maybe that was a sign to just head back to Atlanta one day early. I packed up all of our stuff and hit the road. About an hour into the trip, I started felt guilty, though, knowing my daughter had been cheated out of a fun day with me. That one-on-one time didn’t happen as often as I liked, so I started a silent discussion in my head about how to make it up to her. It was about 4 miles south of Orlando that it hit me. We could make a detour to one of the theme parks. After all, Disney and Universal were right there. But, it was already 2 in the afternoon. Was it really worth the money to fight off the crowds at the parks? We had just been to Universal one month earlier. It was fun, and we regretted not getting more time to enjoy the Cabana Bay Resort, the Universal hotel where we spent our last night the month before. There was a lazy river to float through, two different pools that could have been amusement parks by themselves, all kinds of fun right there at the hotel. If we could get a room, we wouldn’t even need to go to the parks.
So I quickly dialed their number and reserved a room for the night—at a steal of a rate for only $69! I probably would have paid twice that, but was glad I didn’t have to. We pulled into the resort less than ten minutes later, dropped our stuff in our room and went off to play.
I didn’t have to worry about sharks and got to have a blast with my baby, now a nine-year-old who loved having her mom all to herself. We floated around that lazy river for hours. Then jumped out to the pool area, where we played for a bit before realizing how hungry we were.
We grabbed burgers at the grill by the pool, then made our way to the other pool on property, the one with the massive slide. We resumed the game of tag that we’d earlier started in the ocean, running until our toes were raw from rubbing on the bottom of the concrete pool. But again, at least we still had toes, which I was afraid a shark might confuse for tiny fish earlier in the day. This was good.
And it got better when we realized they were showing a movie by the pool as soon as it was dark. Horton Hears a Who! My daughter was excited. And I was relieved, because I’d forgotten I was supposed to be co-hosting a twitter party that night. So, thanks to the free hotel wifi, there we sat…me tweeting away on my laptop while my daughter leaned up against me, laughing at Horton. I didn’t like dividing my attention, but it was certainly better tweeting by the pool than it was sitting in a hotel room with her waiting for me to be done.
When we walked back to the room and cuddled up for the night, we reviewed our crazy day and fun detour, thankful for all of the adventures and outcomes. We realized sometimes, a detour is exactly what you need to get back on track.