The Perfect Sand Dollar
When my world starts feeling dark and ominous, I take a deep breath and drift to a place without rain drops or drug cravings. After closing my eyes, I'm suddenly driving down highway 680 headed westbound, the sunroof is down and my music's turned to the highest volume. I'm surrounded by palm trees instead of evergreens, by sunshine and there's not a cloud in sight. I'm laying on a beach with real sand and the breeze is from the ocean, not a handheld fan. Once my eyes are closed, I'm back home.
I'm walking near the ocean at 4 am with my dad, we’re hunting for the perfect sand dollar which he swears we'll never find. “It's almost impossible to find one. They're so fragile even the wind can shatter them, if you find one cherish it." That’s where I wander when I close my eyes, when I take a deep breath and escape for a while.. and on my darkest days, I escape to the happiest of my places-- I escape to one of my favorite memories.
It’s the middle of the night, the waves are violently crashing and the only light around is the bright reflection of the moon in the ocean. The sharp breeze was cold enough to burn my eyes while I sat perched on my father's shoulders, wearing his old soccer sweatshirt which was twice my size. We were walking along the beach as the tide began to draw closer, higher and hoping to find a perfect sand dollar. I looked down at the sand from the tallest point in the world I was able to imagine.
He told me how rare it was to find a whole sand dollar which had yet to be broken, he said my chances were greater just as the tide begins to creep in. I remember the summers we spent at our beach house in Rio Del Mar, the only home the bank wasn't soon going to own. I remember being nine years old, spending every night out on the sand searching for a sea shell the world deemed unattainable and all attempts to prove otherwise were seen as whimsical.
My view grew wider and I was convinced my chances grew as well, looking down from the highest point I thought possible. When you're that small, the highest place in the world was up on your daddy's shoulders and it was always the best seat in the house. I was still young enough to believe the impossible was simply just more difficult and I could discredit all the doubts I heard.
It's an innocence which proved short lived and would very soon be ripped from my hands-- pouched from my grasp.
I miss when ignorance was not yet an insult but an envied blessing. I miss being ignorant enough to believe I'd eventually find the perfect sand dollar if I only kept looking.
“They're special but incredibly fragile, just like you. You’re a perfect sand dollar, Brittanie. I'll do my best to make sure you never get scratched."
Regardless of how long it's been, I still remember the tone in my father's voice when he told me I was the best thing he'd done in his life, that I was his perfect sand dollar. I remember hearing that and feeling safe, it's what makes this my happiest place.
That's the memory I escape to each time my shell gets another scratch, another crack; as my shelter continues to shatter like glass.