How to Store Seashells

Before you store your seashells, you must first walk along Miami Beach at sunrise with your throat still burning from last night’s margaritas. This is before marrying, having children or growing up. Along the wet sand, collect sand dollars, pointy mitres, ridgy scallops and, your favorite, oversized conch shells. Pack them in your suitcase between your swimsuits and terry-cloth jumpsuits and bring them back to Ohio.

In time, get married. Have one child. Get divorced and married again, always hanging on to those shells. They remind you of who you were before: young and wild.

When your father falls ill, pick up your family of three and move everything that fits into his duplex. Take care of him as best you can. He’s dying, but you won’t admit it. 

Display the shells on a shelf in your six-year-old daughter’s room, because wall space is scarce. She likes them, to shake the sand dollars and imagine real coins inside. When your dad’s health sinks further, hand her the conch and tell her to listen to the ocean. Tell her stories about the beach and how one day, when money and life are better, you will take her there to find her own seashells.

One day she climbs her dresser to play with the shells and bumps the shelf. It topples. Shards of shells ricochet off walls. 

The conch is somehow okay. 

Hold it to your ear. Know not everything is broken.

 

- Danielle Dayney is sometimes a blogger, usually a writer, and always a mom. Recently, her creative nonfiction essays have been shared on BLUNTmoms and Thought Catalog. Her stories have also been published in several anthologies including the Virginia Writers Centennial AnthologyShort on Sugar, High on Honey, Nevertheless We Persisted, andBeach Reads: Lost and Found.In 2016 and 2017, she received awards at BlogHer for creative nonfiction essays. You can find her chasing kids and furbabies somewhere in Virginia, or at www.danielledayney.com.

My Mother Knew How to Eat a Cupcake

My mother was an organized woman. Gabby wrote lists of what she was going to do every day with her special Papermate pen no one else was to use. If it went missing, she yelled out across the house, “Who took my pen?”

            She placed her furniture just so, at specific angles. Her living room was arranged with comfort and organization in mind. When you stood from the couch, you were to plump the down pillows your body had sunk into. No indentions allowed. When she left the room, my three siblings and I liked to test her. We might move a chair a quarter of an inch. She’d return, sigh and push the chair back to its proper position.

            The only mess Gabby tolerated was anything to do with chocolate, and the gooier, the better. She disdained candies, but inhaled chocolate mousse, chocolate sin, soft chocolate chip cookies, brownies and cake frosting. She had her own method for eating cupcakes, especially Humphrey’s cupcakes we picked up on the way to the beach on the Vineyard. We always hoped there were enough black on whites for all of us. Sometimes we had to make do with chocolate bottoms, horrors.

 photo of Gabby provided by the author

photo of Gabby provided by the author

            At the beach, my mother picked first. She swiftly and surgically separated the bottom half (or three quarters) from the top and threw it into the wind for the seagulls to fight over and devour. She then popped the remaining mini version of the same cupcake into her mouth in one bite.

            I rarely eat a whole cupcake anymore. Bottoms are just excuses for frosting.

 photo by Asha Rajan

photo by Asha Rajan

 

- When Morgan Baker isn't figuring out what parts of her are like her mother and what parts aren't, she teaches at Emerson College. Her essays have appeared in Talking Writing, Brain Child, The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe, The Martha's Vineyard Times, and others. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and two dogs and is the mother of two grown daughters.