Seashells and Sunshine

My grandma loved the beach.

She could spend hours looking for seashells. According to my aunt, grandma was really good at finding whole shells of all sizes. She kept some of these in glass containers around her house. I also remember a seashell wreath as well as prints of beach dunes and the battery in Charleston.

It didn’t matter if it was the ocean or a lake, she found happiness in her visits there. I never asked her about her feelings, why she loved the water, sunshine, and sand, but I asked my aunts what they thought. One aunt described the beach as relaxing and beautiful and another remembered spending lots of time at the beach when they lived in Puerto Rico, sometimes cooking dinner on a grill. My aunts both love the beach, too: “the sunsets, sunrises, salt air, sea breezes, shells, soft sand, endless ocean and sky, billowy clouds…so soothing and what a beautiful creation.”

me, my sister, and our grandma

I have lots of memories of being at a beach with her for vacations, Christmas, family reunions, and afternoon outings. Most of the beaches we went to together were in South Carolina.

One of my memories is from the time my mom, sister, and I spent with her and my aunt at Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, when I was about 7 years old. We rented a place not far from the beach and spent hours jumping over waves, building sandcastles, and collecting seashells. I remember being happy there.

One of our last Christmases with her, we rented a house at Isle of Palms, outside Charleston, South Carolina. We set up a small Christmas tree next to a glass door looking out at the ocean and took walks on the beach in the the dim winter sunlight.

I feel the same as my aunts: I love the beach. I’m not sure if this was taught or inherited. Every summer I long for at least one beach trip (we live about 3 hours from the Atlantic Ocean) and I prefer an ocean beach near a small town to anything else. I also collect seashells and display them in my home along with grandma’s print of the Battery in Charleston. Most recently I collected shells from Cork Harbor in Ireland near the place my ancestor built ships.

As I dive into photos of grandma’s early years, I can see that her love of seashells and sunshine was life-long. There are pictures of her and her family wading in rivers, swimming in pools, relaxing at lakes for family reunions, and playing at the beach.

One common theme through all these photos and memories is family. Some of my love for the beach comes from sharing time and building relationships with family there, and I believe it was probably, in part, the same for grandma.

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