Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sea shell mobile

I might have been 10, and still thoroughly convinced that my grandparents possessed special powers – which others might have just called love, but I was too young to understand the warm feeling that their undivided attention created in my belly. My sister and I spent a week with them every summer in their magical house on a mountainside in Connecticut, and they did their best to fill our time with endlessly fascinating things and activities.

That afternoon, I’d gotten into Nana’s shell collection. She and PopPop and their two boys had spent myriad and epic summers on camping trips up and down the eastern seaboard. Both Nana and PopPop had eyes and hearts for beauty, and heads for detail, and in those days, there was still a bounty of beauty to be had at the seashore. They had gallon-size Zip Lock bags full of seashells, now stored in their basement. I wonder if this began my childhood fascination with the sea, or if it just augmented it. Even now, I look at these shells and wonder at a world in which beautiful, iridescent abalone shell is excreted from an otherwise slimy, unrecognizable creature.

I asked Nana about the shells and it was probably she who suggested that I pick out my favorites so that we could together create a mobile from them. Then, as now, I was stunned by her generosity. Surely, the shells must hold stories – where she was when she found them, the quality of the sea air the moment she plucked them from the sand – and how could she part with them, so beautiful, and perfectly imperfect – particularly the sand dollar that was as big as my hand at the time.

I chose the sand dollar, two pink and two cream colored shells, and then two mussel shells a otherworldly, purply color. Nana found fishing line, a short bit of driftwood, a small bit for the drill, and began - with hands now so delicate that the skin tears with a careless touch - to drill the tiny holes through with the fishing line would run. I stood at her side at the workbench, uncomfortably anxious, fully expecting my beautiful shells to shatter at any moment.

When they’d all been drilled and the lines run, Nana lifted the mobile for the first time, giving it an iridescent, tinkling life. My heart lodged in my tiny throat. I’m sure my 10 year old body quaked with an unsaid thank you, while this woman that I suddenly, fiercely loved admired a mobile that I treasure to this day.

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful gifts from your Nana -- the mobile and the memory. I, too, have a keepsake from my Grandmother. She offered me one rock from her mason jar. After going through the entire collection, and caressing each one, I chose a cream agate with a brown streak running through it. I carry both to this day -- the rock and the memory. Grandmas are a wonder.