On our beach vacation, Tiny spent a good deal of time collecting rocks and shells.
He called it “catching shells” because he’s five and because the beach demands terminology used at sea.
You catch fish. Why wouldn’t you catch shells?
While I spent my time looking in the surf, picking up, throwing back, examining, and trying to find just the right one, Tiny found beauty in everything he found.
“Oh, Mama! Lookit! Dis is so beautiful!”
“Wow! It’s the prettiest!”
“I never seen one like dis!”
And, the result was that I left at the end of the week with one, beautiful stone that was naturally shaped like a heart, and Tiny left with a bag full of a mixture of half a mussel, concrete, a dirty clam shell, and a bunch of other pebbles that could have easily come from someone’s driveway.
When we came home, I soaked everything in a solution of bleach and water because, for Christmas, I plan to get him a lamp with a glass base into which we can deposit those rocks and shells, each year, and when he is grown up, he can take it with him…a tangible memory of our summers together.
And, when they came out of the solution, they looked slightly better than they had before, but the cleaning process also showed those which had no real, recognizable beauty.
Tiny was in the basement, playing with his brother, and so, I thought I’d cull his collection down to just those that will look pretty in the base of that lamp. I took the others and tossed them beside the deck, and put the rest in a baggie, to await Christmas.
When he came upstairs, he asked to see his shells (because he calls them all shells since he found them at the beach) and I pulled out the bag.
He started to take them out, one at a time, and place them on the table, “oohing” and “aahing” over each one, when he suddenly stopped.
“Mama. Where’s the rest?”
I wasn’t sure how to play this, because I had been sure he wouldn’t notice the absence of a piece of cement, a broken mussel and some pebbles, so I responded, “The rest of what?”
“The rest of my shells. Where they at?”
So, I explained that I kept the prettiest shells for his collection and put the rest of them outside, and I began to trip over my words as his eyes began to fill with tears.
“What’s the matter?” I asked him.
“I fink they’re ALL pretty because we caught them together.”
So, out to the yard we went, and we were able to find them all because I had dropped them right next to the front porch, and we added them to the bag, and they, too, will find their home in the base of the lamp.
I’m not sure how could I have forgotten that happy memories are always beautiful, no matter what they look like on the outside.