Poems & Essays

14 Dec

Do Mermaids Like Ketchup?

General/Column 4 Responses

“Do mermaids like ketchup on their hot dogs?”

Her question takes a moment to grab my attention, but I finally force myself to put away the grocery list and look in her eyes.

She’s waiting for an answer, and I want to answer, but I am suddenly captivated by her. This little girl. It seems like two blinks ago that she was a whimsical flutter in my tummy. And now as her gray eyes ponder mermaids and fantasy, it hits me that she will soon be a young lady. I am overwhelmed with the need to hug her, to try to hold on to this moment, this little moment that is anything but little. But she is waiting for an answer.

“I suppose they eat ketchup on their hot dogs,” I say.

“But mom,” her voice has an edge of ‘you don’t understand’ to it, “where can they get the tomatoes to make the ketchup?”

I almost laugh at her response. Where does she think the mermaids will get the hot dogs? But her gray eyes aren’t laughing now. She is serious, and needs to be taken seriously. Again, I want to capture this moment with the sun shining on her long hair, her first wiggly tooth front and center, and the spark in her gray eyes. But she’s waiting.

“Can mermaids have gardens? Maybe they grow the tomatoes,” I suggest, hoping to satisfy her.

“Yeah,” she whispers in awe, wide eyed at the new thought.

Now I watch her draw a stick lady with a fish tail, surrounded by a seaweed garden. When did she learn to draw recognizable figures? A few months ago, all her masterpieces still looked like tornadoes. And before the tornadoes, we oohed and aahed over her chicken scratches. Of course that was after we gazed expectantly at a purple plus sign. And now here she is, in all her wonder, with all her questions about butterflies, bubbles, and wind and stars.

“Mom, how can they make their hot dog buns not get soggy?” her sweet voice ponders. It isn’t the question that startles me, but her voice. Her words are so plainly spoken, her voice so clear, her conversation so flowing. Caught by emotion for a second, I recall how her voice sounded the first time I heard her, that cry that assured me that she had safely arrived. Then her first word; I can still hear her saying “da” to her daddy. The first sentence. Now this, a question and answer about mermaids and hot dogs. A tear nearly slips down my cheek as I again see her in the present, as a busy five-year-old. “Mom,” she pleads, “how can they make their hot dog buns not get soggy?”

Smiling, I hug her and memorize every detail about this moment. “That is a good question. Let’s brainstorm it together.”

Pulling out of my hug, her eyebrows crunch together, “I don’t want a storm in my brain.”

The questions begin again, and I know that I need to savor these conversations, this age of wonder, and her eyes, so full of life, promise and marvel.


M. Liz Boyle is a stay-at-home mom to a five and three-year-old with another on the way, and she is thankful to have the opportunity to be with her family every day. She and her husband keep busy with the daily adventures of raising little ones, as well as outdoor adventures, such as a recent backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. She enjoys squeezing writing time into her day, and she is very excited to have her first published work appear in Mothers Always Write.

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Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

  1. Darla

    December 15, 2016 at 12:08 am

    Loved this! Many treasured conversations and thoughts from little ones. Kudos for making time to really communicate with your child.

    • Liz

      December 16, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Laura Dathe

    December 21, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Miss you Liz! Your words draw me into my own emotions- and I’m grateful for the reminder to keep my ears and eyes open for these moments in my day! Blessings to you and your beautiful family! ~Bo

  3. Shanna Powlus Wheeler

    December 21, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Congrats on your first publication, which will open the door to many more, I’m sure! This essay is a lovely tribute to your daughter.


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