She referred to them as "these wee little mermaid bath toy floaty-on-the-sponge thingies," but I instantly recalled their true name: the Seawees.
I cannot tell you how much joy I got out of playing with my Seawees when I was eight or nine years old. There was Coral, the red-haired one with a blue tail that I let my friends play with when they came over, and Shelly, the brown-haired one with a green tail (she was always the villain, in something of the spoiled-rich-girl mold), and then there was Sandy of the shining blonde hair and pink tail, whom I re-named Tia after the girl in Escape to Witch Mountain because she too had long blonde hair and it was such a pretty name (you can tell that I never took Spanish in school).
Around the same time I also started to collect a set of gorgeous fairy-tale finger puppets (I've been unable to find pictures of these on the web, alas). The heads were rubber and they had silky hair like Barbie dolls, but the faces were childlike, and the bodies made of soft cloth. Their costumes were beautifully detailed for their size -- the whole doll was about the length of an adult's hand -- and unlike Barbie's wardrobe, they didn't come off. I owned Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Prince Charming, and Sleeping Beauty, and like the Seawees I played with them incessantly.
Alas, they do not seem to make toys like that any more. All these TV and movie merchandise tie-ins have killed creative toymaking.
I wish I still had them.
* Whenever I can't think of a subject line, I seem to end up using a quote from some obscure David Sylvian song. This post would be no exception.