The ‘little mermaid’: Teen dons fish tail to spread joy

Lance Shearer

The coronavirus has been tough on everyone – even those who don’t have it.

With Marco Island largely grinding to a halt along with much of the country and the world, normal patterns of behavior have been disrupted, normal activities have been curtailed and people find themselves with time on their hands.

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Different people have done their best to help – some by giving blood, some by giving generous tips to restaurant servers even though they can’t dine in their establishments and some by volunteering to sew makeshift masks.

Summer Joy Hill decided to help by putting a smile on people’s faces. And she’s doing it by being a mermaid.

Ever since the shutdown of schools and many businesses, Summer, 16, has spent a couple of hours most days lounging on the dock at Pier 81 condominium, where she is on an extended stay, along with her parents and little brother, at her grandparents’ place. Originally, she said, her idea was to give a thrill to the children she saw on boats passing by as the family watched from their seventh-floor balcony.

“But the adults seemed even more excited” by her mermaid routine, said Summer, between boats going by on their way to and from Rose Marina and the waterways around the island. “They wave, and a lot of people take pictures.”

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What makes Summer’s appearance on the dock noteworthy is the long finned tail she wears. While she has never used the costume for public performance, this is a girl who was prepared for this moment. She has not one or two but three tails to choose from, with prices ranging from $120 to $400 (retail – she may have received a discount).

Summer’s desire to cheer people up comes from her commitment to service, said her mother, Colleen, who shares “Joy” with Summer as their middle name.

“When things started heating up with Covid-19 about three weeks ago, Summer Joy though people needed some oy in their lives. So, she took it upon herself to bring them that joy.” In the Hill family, Colleen said, that’s how they do things. “We get up and say, ‘how can we bring people joy today.’ ”

While Collier County schoolchildren have been on an enforced vacation for several weeks due to schools closing, education has continued its regular schedule for Summer and her brother Shawn, 13. The two are homeschooled by their parents, which Colleen said is key to allowing them to make extended visits, as they do to Marco Island each winter to visit Colleen’s parents.

“We love to travel, and we’ve been homeschooling since Summer was in the second grade.”

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Currently, she is doing Algebra II in math, and general health is science, having completed her annual curriculum. She recently finished reading all seven Harry Potter novels. The family lives in Washington state, and their annual visit had nothing to do with that state being the early center of covid-19 activity in the U.S., said Colleen Hill.

Summer said she has only a hazy memory of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” but did remember the princess was named Ariel.

Back at the waterfront, boaters waved, called out, and came in close for a better look at the mermaid on the dock. Rick Siegel went one step further, making a second pass after cruising by and delivering a $20 bill as a tip to Summer, which she said is a first. Siegel, an island dentist idled by the corona restrictions, has a boat named “Cavity Search,” which is funny for someone in his profession.

Even without spotting a little mermaid, boating seems a great way to beat the coronavirus blues, but if your cruise takes you by Pier 81, keep your eye out for Summer Joy.