The other day I felt prompted to clean my home, specifically the master bedroom and bath. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you are aware that my husband and I are desperate to find some time to get away alone without the kids.
The other day he mentioned something to me about finding a sitter of some sort that we could pay to come take care of the kids, the house and our pets for a weekend. But naturally, true to myself, I started to worry about the state of my home.
Trying to imagine someone coming into my home, opening closets and drawers…I shuttered to think of my lack of housekeeping over the past year or so. So I embarked on a cleaning frenzy, while the thought of a rendezvous with my husband fueled my energy level.
Suffice to say, I spent nearly 3 hours cleaning my bathroom alone. You’d be surprised how much there is to clean when you are imagining someone living in your home and you attempt to see your home from their vantage point. I climbed into my big soaking tub and began scrubbing away. Decoratively placed and surrounding my tub are many fancy glass containers holding literally hundreds of shells. I looked at those vases and bowls and knew that they needed to be emptied and washed. I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that. It started me thinking…
We’ve lived in our home for what will be 13 years this summer. When we moved in, I had only had my 3 boys and they were 4 years old, 2 years old and 1 month old. I had brought a small container of shells to the new house at the time, for the family was young and new. I remember it was a small glass bowl, heavy lead, probably meant to be a candy dish. But I used it for my shell collection. I was amazed to look at how that collection had grown. At how many I had actually kept. Perhaps it was time to get rid of some of these. After all, shells are shells – I could just pick out a few of the pretty ones, maybe the ones lacking perfection…
I reached for the enormous margarita glass positioned in the corner under the window. It was overflowing with shells of all kinds. As I picked it up, the two sand dollars started to slide off and I jumped to catch and save them. Beneath them- several small pieces of coral peeked out at me and a flood of memories began to cast a magical spell on me as I stood in my tub with my pajama pant legs rolled up above my knees.
I placed a large bath towel on the side ledge of the tub and poured all of the shells from the margarita glass out onto it. After I had sufficiently washed and rinsed the glass, I was struck with the amount of sand that was going down the drain between my feet. I thought of all of the destinations that the sand had been collected from. My eyes immediately darted to the plethora of shells before me. There must have been one hundred of them. I slowly swirled my fingers back and forth across them, looking at their beauty and remembering the moments.
I could see the beaches of Huntington Beach, California; Wailea Beach, Kannapali Beach, Kona, Hawaii; Ft. Lauderdale, Daytona, Cocoa Beach, Florida; Duck and Corolla Beaches, North Carolina; Negril, Jamaica; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Ocean City, Maryland; Cancun, Mexico; St. Martins/St. Maartens…the warm sunshine, shades of blue and green water, white sand, rolling clouds, foaming waves…all surrounding the images of my children.
Their images flashed before me. Babies napping under umbrellas, toddlers with sand buckets collecting sand crabs, boys with footballs, boogie boards and surfboards, little hands clasping my husband’s jumping the waves together, and years of digging giant holes while they sat huddled behind their wall of sand waiting for the waves to come seeping in. I looked back at the shells.
I picked up a few smaller ones. I placed them in my palm. Flooded with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, I thought about each and every walk taken along those beaches with my husband and children, all over the world, during all different ages and stages of life. No matter what beach we inhabit, my favorite thing to do is walk the beach and search for shells. My children learned early on that I’m not a “body surfing” kind of mom. I am a beachcomber at heart.
My children learned that I don’t save just ANY shell. There are criteria. Color. Wholeness. Shape. Size. But more than anything, it had to be one that they loved above others. When they were younger that meant rocks too. But that was okay. It was a rock they wanted me to have—to save—forever. And I did. I had saved each one that they asked me to. Simply because I loved them.
I turned around and behind me there were another 4 containers to clean out. Large beautiful white clam shells, twisted colorful coral, smooth flat pebbles, golden and sparkling; black and ridged, tiny conch, large conch, past hermit crab homes. I was so impressed with the bounty that my children had helped me collect over the past 17 years. But I wasn’t referring to the shells. It was the memories.
As I picked up the conch shells, I remembered our vacation to Hilton Head, South Carolina. The beach was so still. No thunderous waves like we had been accustomed to further north. A very still beach. In our beachcombing quest that day, we walked to the very end of the beach. I mean the very end. It dead-ended into the ocean. But just before, the beach was dotted with tide pools filled with amazing little creatures, fishes and crabs. I remember the kid’s excitement to reach into them and find perfect conch shells. They ran from pool to pool collecting them in a frenzy to save each one for me. Each child gifting me with armfuls- so proud of their presentation. They were young then. My youngest was probably four years old. The others 6, 8 and 10. Wow. My children were all younger than my youngest is right now. Where did that time go? More incredibly, this little shell just acted as a time machine transporting me back to the exact moment of its find.
It is funny how we had spent money on souvenirs over the years. Taffy, t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, shot glasses – you know all of the junk that children beg for when you take them into those tacky beach tourist trap stores. I always bought each of them a souvenir tee shirt with the name of the beach on it. I thought about those t-shirts. I started to laugh…
My husband was always annoyed with my beachcombing treasures that I insisted upon bringing home. In fact, just last summer on our beach vacation he pleaded with me not to bring anymore home. “Don’t we have enough?” “They are going to smell on the car ride home.” “Let’s just dump them out.” But I held firm. No. They would all go home.
And here they are sitting in the fancy glass containers surrounding my tub. They aren’t just collecting dust as I originally feared when I began to clean. Each shell has a story to tell. A moment in time to remind me of a walk with my children, a laugh that we shared…love that we exchanged.
They aren’t all the same. They are unique to that moment in time when that child would only be that old for that moment wanting nothing more than to share some time with Mommy.
So, all of those shells may appear the same. From a stranger’s view it could even appear a waste. Why hold onto so many? I look at those shells and each one has captured a memory.
How blessed I am to have so many wonderful moments…
--Yet I am pretty sure that each one of those souvenir t-shirts eventually ended up in the garbage.