I was watching something on Paramount+ earlier today and saw commercial for some new SpongeBob show. I’ve never watched SpongeBob, but seeing that ad made me smile because it reminded me of a great moment.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to chaperone a trip for the Fresh Air Fund. They were sending a group of ten kids to Grand Cayman for a week. The kids would stay with host families so they could be part of “regular” Caymanian life in the evenings and during the day there would be all kinds of activities and adventures planned for them. One of my coworkers and I were invited to chaperone along with one of their staffers. We were invited because of the partnership between the Fund and my then job. We three adults would be on-call for all the activities and adventures. I love kids, love the Caribbean. Of course I said I’d be a chaperone, right? It sounded like so much fun.
It was fun. It was also unbelievable stressful and beyond exhausting. I had a wonderful time and wouldn’t trade the experience. And … I have to wonder what I was thinking to have said yes to that trip. Manage ten 7- to 12-year-olds? And on the days when the host family children joined us, that meant managing 13 kids. Me, a woman who has not the first clue how to manage even one child, a woman who children can spot a mile away as having no idea how to exercise authority with little ones. And their parents were going to be in another country, unable to step in and lay down the law? Yeah, not the best idea ever. I’m still glad I went.
One afternoon, we were in our mini-bus on the way to a submarine ride. A cute little glass-sided submarine that would take us on a short cruise to see what we could see under the sea. The submarine trip was named after SpongeBob Squarepants. (I’ll just have to assume they had permission to do that, and that I’m not setting them up for some intellectual property/copyright infringement trouble by calling them out here!) When we reached the place, SpongeBob himself was waiting to greet us before ushering us out to the dock and onto the boat. The kids were pretty excited to see him. Pictures were taken and everyone was super giggly.
On the boat, we went downstairs — below decks? — to get seats in the glass-sided section. Joshua, an adorable, quiet and mischievous 9-year-old, sat next to me. He had a crinkle-browed expression on, and I thought he was having some iffy feelings about the submarine (I certainly was). I asked him what was up.
“So, back there, inside,” he said, pointing in the direction of the building we’d just passed through to get the to dock. “That was SpongeBob. But do you think that was the real SpongeBob?”
And here is another thing about me and children. I am fascinated by them and also completely unprepared for them. I mean, this was a question I wouldn’t ever have imagined anyone coming to me with … because it would never have occurred to me that anyone thought there was a real SpongeBob. Anywhere.
But when you get that question, you don’t want to laugh and say that SpongeBob is a cartoon and isn’t real except on your TV. That would be cruel. Instead, you need an answer that allows for the possibility of a real SpongeBob, but also for the likelihood that this wasn’t the man (man?) himself. So I said that SpongeBob probably had a lot of people to help him out, especially for tours like the one we were on, since it was so far away from where he lived.
And I kind of held my breath, waiting to see how that would work. It worked just fine. Joshua nodded and said the SpongeBob we’d seen must have been a helper wearing a costume. The crinkle in his forehead smoothed out, and he settled in to see whatever there was for us to see under the sea. And I released a huge sigh of relief. I hadn’t made any glaring missteps and had left SpongeBob with his potential realness in tact!
It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!