By: Sahara Kaplan
A child runs along the ocean, my littlest child, delighting in the warm sand that gives way beneath their small feet. The cold water that washes over their toes time after time elicits a squeal of joy—or is it terror—and the salty summer breeze from the ocean washes their lungs with each excited breath. The sun is high, the water reflecting a particular clear blue light that only skies in ocean memories hold claim to.
They run back to me with a precious find: a lump of greenish glass, well-worn by the mill of cyclical tides. “It’s sea glass, Mom,” they inform me. “I finally found some!” Their face is washed with freckles and lit with wonder as they hold their prize up to me. I crouch down to their level so we can examine the miraculous nugget together. “We talked about it at school, and my friends said they found some before on the beach at home, but I never did. Now I have one of my own.”
We turn it over and hold it up and admire it from every angle. It’s translucent with a celery-green cast. Through one smoothly-polished face I can see bubbles inside, picked out by the bright sunlight. All the other faces are roughly textured or frosted, betraying the trauma of its ocean journey. It reminds me of the heavy glass ashtray that used to appear on my grandparents’ dining table when I was just this same age. After a family meal with my aunts and uncles and cousins, Grandfather and my father would light their pipes, my uncles and aunt their cigarettes, and the thick glass ashtray would slowly fill with ashes and lipsticked butts as they talked. The ebb and flow of indecipherable adult conversations in my mind slowly transform back into the sound of this sea.
My little one explains authoritatively where sea glass comes from, and I Oh? and Ahhh! appreciatively but my mind is wandering again, to other beach scenes of my life. Perhaps I threw a green glass Coca-Cola bottle into the waters of Ocean City or Virginia Beach or Truro or Boston Harbor. Perhaps it held a note on carefully-rolled paper. Perhaps it said I love you. Or You make me cry. Or I hate you. Or I want to leave you.
Did my bottle tumble and break in the churning waters, roiled by the tides? Did its many pieces just like this one each get dragged roughly against the gritty sea floor and washed by currents to arrive on many different shores? My note would have fallen, mushy and waterlogged, to the bottom of some distant bay. A crab or starfish the only creature to read the words there, before my feelings dissolved.
Sahara Kaplan is currently in exile from the mountains of a mid-Atlantic state. They started writing a childish play at nine, continued with lots of bad emo poetry in high school, and eventually worked as a technical writer and editor for engineering companies. Since then, Sahara has contributed to professional articles and blogs, was a finalist in a (now defunct) 24-hour online flash fiction contest, had an essay published in the WisCon40 Souvenir Book, and has recently been offered a merit-based fellowship toward tuition at Summer Literary Seminars.