While growing up, my family enjoyed boating around the bays and Gulf around Panama City, Florida where I was born and raised. Our boat was a 30-foot Trojan cabin cruiser which we docked at the downtown marina in a private berth.
One day my brother decided to drop a crab basket off the dock just for kicks. He checked it one day and no crabs. He checked it again and alas, no crabs but instead there was a little seahorse inside the basket. He pulled it up and we took her from the basket and placed her into a cup full of salt water. We called the seahorse a “her” but I am not certain how we decided that she was indeed, a she. I have since read that the males have a brood pouch and the females do not but at the time, I don’t recall if we even noticed that or not. In any event, we decided she was a she and henceforth named her Charlene.
We took Charlene home with us and put her into a very small aquarium, complete with a long mixing spoon so she would have something to hang onto. I don’t remember if my Mom ever put any plants in there to dress up her landscape or if any other creatures were added. I don’t believe so as I remember Mom taking such special care of Charlene and just Charlene. She would drive down to the bay and scoop up a pail of salt water and bring it home for her. You see, the water would be swimming with brine shrimp and plankton which is what Charlene liked to eat. Sometimes Mom would go to the pet store and buy her some brine shrimp but she much preferred the fresh stuff.
I remember being fascinated watching Charlene eat and just hang out. She really didn’t do much else mainly because her living quarters were so small and she had no friends to play with. We suggested we get her a boyfriend as we thought it would be cool to watch them have babies. Mom and Daddy didn’t think so. We once found a baby octopus in a scallop shell and wanted to take it home to be with Charlene but it was decided that would be a bad idea since the thing would probably ink constantly in the tank. Charlene would be miserable!
At some point, a hurricane came our way and we were evacuating. We decided to take Charlene back to the dock and let her go. Daddy figured she’d be safer there than in her tank at home. I couldn’t see how that would be the case but we took her anyway. It was sad – no more Charlene to feed and watch.
But you know something, I am so forever grateful to have had that experience and the many other experiences we had growing up around the salt water – boating, snorkeling, scuba diving, skiing, you name it, if it had to do with salt water, we were doing it! We would hop in the boat and head to Pensacola for lunch or head over to Apalachicola to eat at the Greasy Spoon (I truly think that was the name of the restaurant or it might just be what my Dad called it) or take weekend trips to Carrabelle or Mobile. We would travel to places in and around Panama City by boat so often that it would be years before I would actually know how to get there by land. Oh, I can’t forget the yearly trips to Islamorada in the Keys where we’d go lobstering which was very awesome. We ate lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was great fun!
It’s all we knew and quite frankly, was the best childhood anyone could ever want. As you can tell, I feel quite lucky. Thanks to my wonderful parents for being so good to us and providing such wonderful experiences and memories.