I move the glass jar from the garden tub’s edge to shine the bathroom clean. It is swollen with shells, and they are white and pink and lovely. I spent so many New England summers of childhood at those beaches. I inhale the salt air deeply now; and watch the tide smashing against the rocky jetties. I close my eyes and am curling my painted toes into the sand while the sun is warming my tanned back.
“Really, she is as brown as a berry,” my grandmother says, and she has zinc oxide on her nose and she is peeling an orange and her skin is like leather after a lifetime of summer sunbathing. She often speaks of me rather than to me.
Sitting next to my brother and cousins, eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches while sharing thermos cups of lemonade, I am really not so brown, but my hair is bleached out and I have a splash of freckles on my upturned nose. I swim in the wild ocean for hours each day and spend the rest of daylight collecting pet purple periwinkles and crabs in my red bucket. My brother and I coat our shells with clear nail polish and try our hand at selling them after dinner in front of our cottage. I am seven and write my first poem and second short story. Sleep is deep and peaceful and beautiful come nightfall.
I open my eyes and place the jar back onto the tub’s ledge. Doing so shifts a few shells and I notice the soft sliver of blue. Yes. In my peripheral a robin hops in our backyard, but I am hundreds of miles away…a little girl hunting for sea glass. Grandpa is teaching me proper sea glass etiquette.
“If it is sharp or thin or clear, you must throw it back. It needs time to become beautiful.”
I remember and follow this rule meticulously. It was not until recently that I discovered sea glass takes eight years to become such. It is the stress of sand and waves and pressure and time that make it soft and foggy and beautiful.
I rub the sea glass between my thumb and index finger. Photos from those summers capture suntans and cookouts and backyard badminton. Sandcastles and ice cream cones. Pictures clicked in a moment for the ages; hiding the depth of story swirling, swirling, underneath.