Starfish and Seahorses
by Lee Sheehan
I grew up spending my summers at the Cape. I come from an old New England family. However, My immediate family moved from the rest of our clan, and I only knew the Cape and my extended family in the summer.
I had a dysfunctional, disjointed, and often sad immediate family. But my grandparents were wonderful, and it was their house on the Cape where my best memories were made.
Their home was on the sand, so to speak. It was within walking distance to the beach. I don't know if it was "safe" but I and my siblings wandered about and went to the beach without any fear of strangers. It was not that long ago- I so hope it hasn't changed too much!
We (I say we because I was blessed to have close siblings) would walk to the beach alone by what was called "The Midway." It was a beautiful path that ran behind the homes, and it was always filled with roses, all sorts of roses! The scent of roses is forever a part of my childhood. It does not conjure up thoughts of vases and romantic evenings; No! It reminds me of innocent childhood, and the wonder and joy of being a kid on The Cape.
The absolute most wonderful part of spending my summers on the Cape was the water. My kind and wise grandfather would walk with us kids along the shore and the tidal pools. I was mesmerized by starfish and seahorses, and there wereplenty that washed-up on the shore for us to talk about. I learned that the ones I found were actually dead; that was a revelation. But it was o.k., because they were still beautiful.
I think I understood death then in a way that an adult never could. There was so much beauty and magic that it didn't matter if these creatures were dead; they were wonderful. It was only later that I learned that these beautiful creatures had a mysterious life beyond what I could discern. Still, it did not diminish the experience of finding them along the tidal pools.
I work at a Hospice now. I am a Bereavement Counselor. I talk to people who feel they have lost everything. They strive to find something in this world to believe in that will give them a reason to go on. I can only offer empathy. Hope is for them to find. But I recall something very beautiful and hopeful in the Cape tide pools.
I have the memories of the passion and magic of a child at the sight of a starfish and seahorse. Sounds simplistic; It is. But the feelings in those moments are so profoundly affirming that I know there is still wonder and mystery to discover. I hold that feeling in my soul,I know what it feels like to be a child, because I had the opportunity to be a real, unburdened, open-eyed, innocent, pure-hearted child; and in that time the world made sense and it was perfect.