Short curly hair bobs along with the bouncing child down the boardwalk. His big brown wide are wide with excitement. His mom is taking him to the aquarium. All the fish and sea mammals swim around and chatter.
“I can’t wait to touch the starfish!” He claps his hands. “Mom, can I touch the starfish?”
“We’ll see.” She smiles down at her son as they walk into the entrance reading ‘See the Fish Up Close’.
“Two, please. One adult; one child.” The money and tickets exchange hands. “Come on, George. We can look at the rainbow fish first.” She holds her hand out for him. He bounces down the hall half dragging his mother to see the fish.
Red fish, blue fish, yellow fish, green fish, and lots of different rainbow fish. George stares at every one pointing out this one and that one. “I’ll name him Ryan. And this one is Nate.” He nods taping the glass. “Oh! Sharks!”
For a good fifteen minutes George paces the shark tank following them around. His mother sits down on a bench not too far from George and his sharks. “Mom! They are still circling the tank! Do you think they see me?” He waves at the sharks.
“Nope. Their tank may look like glass from our side, but they see only a mirror.” Mom stands up patting her skirt down. “How about we see the penguins?”
“PENGUINS!!” George takes no time to race across the space where several penguins play in the water. Even though a couple other kids look at the penguins, George does not join their conversation. He focuses on the animals themselves. “Mom, mom, mom, look!” He points at the penguins turning to call his mother over. “They are dancing!”
“That’s how they walk. It is called waddling. Look at how they swim. They seem like fish, but they are birds.”
“A bird that cannot fly. Like an ostrich.” He nods staring at the birds for a bit longer. When his mother comes to his side, he asks quietly, “Can we touch the starfish now?”
“Come on. The touch tank is upstairs.” Again she offers her hand for him. Soon they ascend the staircase in hope the touch tank is available.
The tank looks surrounded by kids. George has no room to see the animals. He frowns, but his mother walks him into the local zone. Reptiles and amphibians hang out in their tanks and his mother reads about the bats they hear flying around at dusk.
“I wanna touch the starfish, Mom.” George sighs at the snake trapped in its tank. “Can we go back now?”
“Okay. You may have to wait though.” Mom holds out a hand as several kids run pass them to see the snake.
The touch tank has only one child looking inside. George washes his hands really quick and races to see into the tank. He has to step up on a stool to see inside. The aquarium guide holds up a starfish to George and he looks positively overjoyed.
“Can I touch it?” George holds a finger out to the starfish.
“Go ahead. Do you know what this is?”
George begins telling her everything he knows about the starfish. “I just love starfish.”
“Well when you get older maybe you can work here.” She grins putting the starfish into the tank. “Do you want to touch the others?”
George continues at the touch tank for some time. When the aquarium guide leaves him, he hops off his stool and goes to wash his hands. His mother helps him clean up. “Are we going to get lunch now?” He looks at him mother with sorrow.
“How about we get a little something from the gift shop?”
“Okay.” He bounces down the steps. The gift shop is the final stop before they leave the aquarium. They stop by a pizzeria for lunch. George plays with his new toy shark pretending it eats pizza, too. “Real sharks don’t eat pizza.” He tells his mom. “But I’m gonna pretend he does.”
“We’ll go again another day, George.” His mother pats his head while they finish lunch and continue with their fun day.