When our daughter, Dimples, was about three, she inexplicably started saying, “the guy” at random moments. Sometimes she would point at her dad, sometimes at baseball caps. We could not figure out what she was trying to tell us.
Then we took her back to SeaWorld for the second time. We sat down at the “Viva” show, which had mesmerized her the first time we went. The show was filled with leaping dolphins, graceful beluga whales, and amazing feats of gymnastics and diving. Despite all of that, it stunned me that she didn’t fidget the entire program. She never clapped or smiled, just watched with wide-eyed wonder.
Determined to repeat that experience, we brought her again about 3 weeks later, carefully arriving about 15 minutes before the beginning of the show so we could be sure to have the same seats as the first time. When you find something that works well with a toddler, you don’t mess with perfection.
We sat down, and suddenly Dimples started saying, “The Guy! The Guy! The Guy!” with great excitement.
And then I saw who she meant. Before the show started, a man entertained the crowd with goofy antics in the audience, pretending to try to “fix” a leak, and splashing water everywhere. He wore a cap. And last time, I had pointed him out to Dimples by saying, “See the guy over there? See what the guy is doing? Isn’t the guy funny?”
From then on, whenever we went to SeaWorld, it was required for us to attend the Viva show to see The Guy.
And if there was a substitute Guy? Dimples was not happy.
This week, Dimples and I went back to the show. It’s been 7 years since “The Guy” appeared in her life. Since then, the show has morphed into a new one, “Azul”, but it’s always had pretty much the same theme.
And it still has “The Guy.” And he still fills a baseball cap with water and puts it on the head of a very surprised member of the audience.
“But it’s a different guy,” Dimples noted with disappointment this week. I felt myself preparing for her inevitable announcement of a Day Ruined. But it didn’t come.
Because now we go to the show to see someone else. Now, Dimples is a synchronized swimmer, and her coach is performing in the Viva show. Now, Dimples is on her way to the Nationals, and her mind is on holding her breath, standing during her lift, and pointing her toes. Now, she is noticing technique and stamina, not the silly man who does pratfalls into the water.
Will I sit in that stadium seven more years from now and be watching Dimples performing with the dolphins?
I don’t know. But I will always associate that open-air theater with a little girl watching her idol with bright eyes of adoration.
And my frantic mental telepathic warnings to The Guy that he Better. Not Come. Anywhere Near Me. With that Cap Full of Water.