A Lifetime Defending the Dolphins

Our youngest, the Kid, turns 21 next month. Yes, it’s a milestone–perhaps more than ever, now, during this pandemic–and it turns out I have the perfect gift for her.

Even when university was not suspended–spring break became shelter-at-home–the Kid lacked a clear direction. Didn’t quite yet know what she wanted for herself later in life. Fair enough–that’s partly what university is for, right? To help provide direction, starting with the choice of a major.

Now that she’s been home with us these two and a half months I’ve noticed some startling developments.

First, she’s finished with the dishwasher. Loves to do dishes by hand, she says. We were empty nesters for all of six weeks before the virus struck. Who is this person, this imposter masquerading as the Kid? Or is dorm life these days exceptionally influential?

Then she refused the washing machine, even though–and here’s a hint–I’ve always bought biodegradable laundry detergent.

Next, although it took weeks to notice, was her using–and washing and re-using–a single white plastic picnic fork. Naturally, I’d hide it from her. Not so naturally, she’d become frantic.

Then it broke. But no jokes here about wearing out a fork. She was philosophical about it.

“I have another one,” she assured me.

Was I relieved? No. Curious? Yes.

So I asked.

“Dad–” she said, as if my ignorance were unimaginable, “every piece of plastic we treat as trash winds up in a dolphin’s mouth.”

Here’s what went through my head:

They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning,
No-one you see, is smarter than he,
And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder,
Flying there-under, under the sea!

Not smarter than Flipper, then. Just a better gift giver.

When the Kid turns 21 next month I’m going to present her with an entire plastic sack full of plastic picnic utensils.

Is this cruel? No. Silly? Yes.

But it’ll also be the gift of direction in her life.

Imagine the splendor of a lifetime defending the dolphins.

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