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How to Age Without Getting Old

I don’t especially like to watch myself getting older, but there is good news:

1. No matter how old I get, Vicki Smith will always be older than me. She turns 70 next week, one day before my 49th birthday. That is comforting.

2. If I have to age, I can be like Vicki and not get old.

Vicki Smith still monkeys around.

Vicki Smith still monkeys around.

Before I go on about this, I will now insert a photo of Vicki shot yesterday when she was climbing a tree and making monkey noises.

I met this great woman a few years back when I was working on my novel, Mermaid Mambo. Vicki first started performing as a mermaid at Weeki Wachee back in 1957 and resumed her mermaid career at the Central Florida theme park in the 1990s. Vicki helped me to understand the magic of the spring and the wonder of the historic mermaids.
The first time I went tubing down the river with Vicki and the other mermaids, I watched as the then-67-year-old woman climbed a tree, grabbed a rope swing, let out a yell and flew through the air to the river, landing with a spectacular splash. I thought to myself, “I want to be like her when I grow up.” So much heart. So much spirit. So much life.
Okay, so this 70th birthday thing. Vicki wants to keep it low key, but don’t imagine that she is letting this day pass without proper commemoration. I will now post the photo of the tattoo Vicki got after consuming a few martinis in Ybor City in Tampa. She put it near her ankle because, she says, she didn’t want it anywhere that might have a wrinkle.
The Tatt.

The Tatt.

“Who wants a wrinkled tattoo?” she asked me. “Name anybody who wrinkles at the ankles.”
“An elephant,” I answered.
She rolled her eyes.
p9040255We went kayaking yesterday and I made her show that tatt to every person kayaking, canoeing or swimming that we encountered on the river. I told one woman that Vicki had always dreamed of being a Weeki Wachee mermaid, so on her 70th birthday, she decided to get the tattoo. The woman told Vicki to hold onto her dream and apply at the park. Maybe they’d take her! Maybe she could really be a mermaid! Vicki thanked the lady she and promised to call the park to apply.
Today, we’ll go to the river again and I will tell people that Vicki got the tatt for her eightieth birthday. I don’t think it’ll tick her off because people will then tell her how she doesn’t look anywhere near 80.
I will now post a YouTube video of some of Vicki’s greatest hits while we were down in Key West this year.

And just so you see the magic of what Vicki is all about, here are a couple of pictures of her taken in 1960 as a mermaid at Weeki Wachee.

Vicki went kayaking last night with some of the other mermaids who wanted to go out and play in the river under the full moon. They stayed out for the longest time. When it was time to paddle home to Vicki’s house on the river, Vicki decided to paddle home naked. That’s our girl. At 70.
Vicki doing the "Deep Dive" in 1960

Vicki doing the "Deep Dive" in 1960

Vicki does "The Leap," again, circa 1960.
Vicki does “The Leap,” circa 1960.
  1. As a friend of Vicki’s since the second grade and now her next door neighbor, I can vouch that she is a model for us all! She never ceases to amaze me and I love her dearly. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GIRLFRIEND!!!

  2. She’s a mother and grandmother who stands by her kids no matter what. If you’re her friend, you are the most important person in the world. If you are her only brother, you are special beyond words. She’s older than me but she’ll always be my little sister. She makes me proud like no other, to be that only brother. She makes me know who I am. Happy Birthday leetle seester. – I love you! – Bro

  3. She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever known. Physically yes, but her sweet,solid,loyal,honest, kind,and funnnnnnnnnnnny spirit lights up a room…..if you know her, or even if you just met her, you are blessed. And to the depth of her soul she is a mermaid, one that will live forever……..

  4. Vicki and I have been friends for 20 years – when she was in a CALMER phase of her Life// – we did enjoy going downtown Knovxille, Tn – in “little red ” her Mietta with the top down. Use to bring bird feed to feed the birds – but got a hole in the bag and got bonbarded by all the birds – they were even in the car. Another time we took the new Jaguar into the mountains and almost went through a bridge or two. She was a real UT Football Fan – and the players loved to stand beside her – it made them all feel SO BIG. HAPPY BIRTHDY DEAR VICKI and if anybody cane make 100 it will be you. ( love the tatt ) Alice

  5. Vicki,
    Have a beau-da-tious happy birthday.
    Faun did a super job of your birthday present. I’m still laughing at you ‘sneeking’ passed the cop car. And finally get to see your tatoo. Beeutiful. (just like you)
    Love ya,

  6. My Auntie is the best auntie anyone could ever ask for! You’ll never meet a more honest, sincere, loving and caring person (she learned it from her mama!) She’s always there for me. Whether I need a shoulder to cry on, a reassuring hug, a place to relax, someone to get as excited about something as I do or someone to feed me dreamy, down home, southern cookin’s! She holds the memories of my Grandmother, the history of my parents and the vacations of my childhood. She is my favorite shopping companion, my confidant, my family foundation. I love you very very much Auntie! Have a very Happy Birthday! I’ll see you soon!

  7. This whole thing, this birthday tribute thing, is so mind-blowing, earth-shattering, Lord lift me up WONDERFUL, that I am full of wonder that I get to call Vicki Vergara Smith one of my dearest friends.

    Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl . . .



  8. (I posted a reply several days ago, but I don’t see it, so I must have hit the wrong button. Hope I get it right this time.)

    This beautiful tribute from Fawn to our favorite mermaid once again made me realize how Lord lift me up lucky I am to count Vicki Vergara Smith as one of my dearest friends.

    Next birthday I double dog dare her to paddle home naked and post the picture.

    Happy Happy Birthday!

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