The Amazing Sea Shells in My Garden

Yesterday my husband and I had spring fever. I took a walk in the nearby park to see what the ducks and turtles were up to while he pruned the rhododendron bushes which lost some branches in the last big snowstorm a couple of weeks ago.

When I returned from my walk I stepped into the backyard and began to examine the very old, large azalea bushes which border the wall of my garden. They were planted by the previous owner and are probably 50 years old at least. As I picked leaves out of their branches leftover from the fall, I came upon my mother’s seashells sitting atop the garden wall. They are beautiful, old conch shells from a Florida beach (probably in Jacksonville where one of my aunts lived) brought back to LI by my family over 50 years ago.

For most of those fifty years the shells (there were maybe 20 of them originally) sat on the ground along the concrete foundation of our house in Bayville. They always drew a passerby’s attention because we, of course, do not have any shells even remotely as big or beautiful in our local waters. These still have such a beautiful pink glow I can’t even imagine how beautiful they must have been when we first found them on the beach as children.

During the past fifty years there have been two times our old neighborhood has been completely flooded with sea water. Actually three times if you count 1953 when Hurricane Gloria devastated much of LI. My father was building our new home and much of his lumber floated away! My parents tried to sell the house, but no one would buy it because everyone had been so traumatized by the hurricane. The second time occurred when we had an unusual nor’wester in 1993 which led to my parents being evacuated by rowboat by local fire department volunteers. The third time took place during Hurricane Sandy when Oyster Bay Harbor and the LI sound both breached the narrow peninsula on which we lived.

Amazingly, all three times our house was not flooded like those of most of our neighbors. Before building our house, my father had been warned by a relative who lived nearby of the possibility of flooding, and so he built a higher than usual foundation to avert the floods. It worked. The really amazing thing is that the conch shells bordering the foundation of the house did not move an inch, even though they were submerged for a week each time.

Now both my parents are deceased and the house was sold. At the last minute, as we were preparing to leave the house for the final time, my daughter said, “Mom, why don’t you take some of the seashells with you?” I thought it was a good idea and picked out the 8 best ones I could find. They now sit in my garden atop my brick garden wall looking amazingly beautiful and out of place. I love that about them, and the fact that every day for almost 20 years as I gaze out my kitchen window they are a daily reminder to me of my childhood in Bayville, my family home…and my parents.

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4 thoughts on “The Amazing Sea Shells in My Garden”

  1. Your shells are tangible memories that are within reach every day. What a life they have lived as they were uprooted from their home and brought to a place where the weather is quite different. They will be something that your daughter will hold onto and future generations too.

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  2. I love this (as I love all your slices!). I feel like there is something very special about shells and the memories they hold. Last summer, my mom and I took Alex and Megan to the beach. Their joy was palpable. Alex ran around with such delight in the sand. The memory of watching my mom hold their hands in the early morning sun near the ocean was so beautiful, I knew I needed to hold onto it. I collected a couple of shells that day and every time I see them, or hold them, that day clearly comes rushing back and I have such a sense of peace. Maybe the timelessness of the ocean makes shells the perfect memory keeper. Thanks for helping me to call mind that mini-slice with your beautiful words.

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