It has been about ten months since my daughter moved me down to Florida to make her family unit multigenerational: her two kids at one end and me at the other. Most of the construction is now completed and I am very comfortable in my two rooms with all my books, my T-shirts, and my dog Ricky (we miss Luci).
This last weekend the more active members of the family spent a few days cavorting at the beaches of the gulf and I stayed behind to enjoy cold-brewed coffee and read poems by Allen Ginsberg. It was only two days but the peacefulness of being alone with my thoughts was refreshing. When the family returned, my precocious little granddaughter brought me a cowry shell with Apalachicola engraved on its top and a gold sticker announcing Made in the Philippines on the bottom.
Naturally this tchotchke threatens to be a forgotten dust-collector … but it made me think.
This was not a gift given to me because I either needed or wanted t but because my almost three-year-old granddaughter picked it out: she wanted to bring something to granddad. When I opened the bag and discovered the shell I started to tell my granddaughter about a similar, un-engraved cowry shell that sat on a table in my grandfather’s house where I was often allowed to hold it and rub it and imagine bright sandy beaches far away.
She wasn’t about to hang around and hear the old man reminisce.
But for the remainder of the evening, alone in my quiet library, my mind wandered around that old house in San Diego where my grandfather lived with his memories (and my spinster-aunt who cooked and cleaned for him). There was the porcelain box where you could be invited to raise the lid and enjoy a few M&Ms; there were the two large flower jugs on either side of the kitchen door (one of which I shattered with an ill-thrown golf ball); there was the large mirror hanging from the picture molding over the davenport at just the right angle so the whole front-room was visible; there was the old multi-purpose entertainment center with the round seven inch television screen and the radio for listening to the Padre games on sultry afternoons and the record player for all those great 78 RPM disks like Rum and Coca-Cola and How High The Moon; and there was that cowry shell and a petrified wood & dead cactus arrangement and granddad’s silver mechanical pencil and his pipe rack and the free-standing ashtray carved like a saguaro cactus.
Now I have my own cowry sitting next to my Amazon Echo on a somewhat cluttered desk. Maybe I need to put up a small shelf for additional tchotchkes and tender memories.