I remember walks on the beach with my dad.
The tide was always lowest in the early morning. The ocean receded to expose a trove of treasures strewn across the wet sand. I carried my plastic sand bucket in hand, ready for my collections. I ran ahead, almost getting lost in the marine layer mist, but when I looked back, my dad was never far behind.
When I was younger, I wasn’t very discriminating. Everything went into the bucket, broken shells, a cool rock, an unfortunate sand crab, pieces of seaweed. As I grew older, I became a lot more picky about what made the cut. No more shards or mere pieces of shells; it had to be whole and colorful and beautiful. And I learned rather quickly not to fill my bucket with pretty rocks. Those things got heavy fast, but my dad never minded when he had to carry my bucket for me when my arms got too tired.
Sometimes we’d reach a patch of broken shells, and I turned my nose up at first. Then my father showed me how to look closely. There among the tiny fragments were also tiny treasures: miniature sand dollars, scallops, and periwinkles. The smallest shells became some of my most prized collections.
My favorite treasure was when we’d come across a large mass of seaweed washed up on shore. My dad would locate the root and break it apart. Inside I discovered an entire ecosystem of tiny plants and animals. We found baby clams, sea anemones, worms, snails, and crabs. Skinny brittle stars squirmed in the hidden recesses. The most exciting thing I found was a baby octopus. It clung to my index finger and bit me with its teeth. It didn’t hurt, but it freaked me out. I couldn’t get it off, so my dad once again came to the rescue. The poor thing was probably more frightened than I was.
I walk on the beach with my own kids now. We get excited when we see a big clump of seaweed. We tear apart the roots and marvel at the animals scurrying away from us to hide. They find pretty shells and offer them to me as gifts. We keep our collections and build our own memories. In my mind, those memories will always be connected to my father as well.
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Today’s prompt: “I remember…”