Pebbles, Shells, Skippers.


Pebbles, Shells, Skippers.

You’ve never seen a beach so covered with pebbles. Each one of them is perfect, smooth, soft and hard to touch. You don’t see sand, though you know it must be there underneath. They come in a variety of tones, grays and beiges of course, but also pinks, blues, turquoises, whites, various shades of egg… Many are even shaped like eggs. You could fill an egg carton with these and present them as a gift… This must be the kind of beach that those home decorating stores send their employees to with the assignment being to collect rocks: Collect as many as you can, fill the back of the pick-up with them. Then they go back and place them in cute little baskets and cover them with some sort of plastic and tie them up in a ribbon. People pay big bucks for these kinds of pebbles. Or little bucks, depending on the store and if they have a coupon this month.

You and your hubby marvel at them. You walk up and down the beach picking them up, showing them to each other, sometimes pocketing them. Is that against the law? Well, goodness knows it doesn’t stop those home stores from doing it, so you figure taking four or eight won’t matter much… You imagine yourself and your husband in the county jail. We didn’t know! They are for our children! It’s the first time they’ve both been at sleep away camp at the same time in fifteen years! They aren’t even at the same camp! They are at different camps for differently timed sessions, so there are five nights- You do that venn diagram thing with your hands, where you face the finger tips to each other and have them meet and slip them into each other to indicate one hand is this one at camp and the other hand is the other one at camp and where the first digits of both hands fingers meet is the five days that you and your husband will be away from them both for the first time in fifteen years.

We are collecting them because… we think they are… beautiful. And our children are beautiful… and we think they might appreciate the beauty of them. Someone said
that we shouldn’t miss them too much- and we don’t – really! We just miss them the right amount, the amount that when you are away from one or two that you love, you feel a little heart-achy but okay because you know they are happy wherever they are. It’s a nice kind of missing, and it beats the alternative. You would rather miss than not miss.



So the next beach is nothing but seashells. Really. Not pebbles or rocks. Just seashells. This time you can see the sand. But when you look down you can see twenty plus perfect seashells that you are tempted to reach down and pick up. There are so many seashells that when you walk on this beach you hear them crunch beneath your steps. It’s good you are wearing your biking sneaks, as this is not a beach on which to go bare feet.
You are feeling rebellious and say fuck the nay-sayers and the don’t miss them-players. You and your husband are going to collect the hell out of these seashells. They are perfect! You know, the classic scallop shape, and of course in a variety of sizes and colors. Some are tiger striped. Some are black and white. Some are solid white. There are also a few – I dunno- mini conches? And some clam shells, some with the clams still in them. You throw those back.

There are also lots of evil seagulls pulling crabs out from under the rocks in the shallow waters near the shore. They pull them out and peck at them and the poor crabs protest and they keep pecking until there is nothing left to peck. Later, when you tell your older child about this she says, why didn’t you stop them? You just stood there and watched! You feel guilty now, a corroborator to a crime. Why didn’t you stop them? You must now tell your child that this happened repeatedly. Over and over again, those three days at various beaches and harbors, you witnessed the seagulls torturing crabs to their feathered bellies content.

Your hubby says, Well, we eat them. We love crab. And in fact, tonight you will have two crab cakes. Which is worse, he asks, being eaten alive or being thrown in boiling water? This is something you would rather not think about, so even though you swore you would not collect a single more seashell, you decide to collect more.


The last beach, the one you walk along before heading to the ferry, is full of skippers. Skippers are what you and your hubby and kids call skipping stones. They come in various shapes, sizes and colors, and they are flat on both sides. You marvel at the different beaches. How, within a few mile radiuses, can there be so many different kinds of beaches? One beach is pebbles, one beach is shells, one beach is skippers. On that first beach, you could not find a skipper to save your life.

Your husband does his best Jerry Seinfeld, Yeah, what’s that all about? You are sure that Jerry or a number of first and third-rate comedians would have much to say on the subject, and you are sure that a number of scientists would have even more… Well, this beach is facing the bay, and this one is facing the Long Island Sound and the ocean’s current is such that… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… Your husband points out that whenever you do scientists you give them British accents.

The truth is,  you aren’t interested in the truth. Sometimes you are more interested in the magic, the strange and mysterious phenomenon of nature and mischievous fairies. You imagine those fairies making a decision that one bright and full-mooned night, they will collect all the seashells from two beaches and bring them over to the third, they will collect all the skippers from the next two and deliver them to the first, and so on.

By now you each have a handful of skippers. Your husband is a master-skipper, but he is also a gentlemen, so he let’s you skip the first. You take turns. Your first few are sinkers and he kindly blames the stones. You wonder aloud if it is because your heart is heavy. The days of checking out and turning off all contact with the world are gone. You have others that you care about, and there are things going on that involve people that you care about from Cairo to Connecticut. You look forward to going home and finding letters in colored ink from both of your children. You are grateful to have all these people in your life that you care about and miss and you wish them all well. …Oh, yes! The wishes! That’s what was missing. With each turn at skipping you must make a wish. You had forgotten that part.

You watch your dear husband and admire his technique. This reminds you that you want to keep the wrist straight, swing from the elbow, focus on a spot far out that you want to reach. One two three four five skips!!! This is a record! He congratulates you with a kiss and you check your phone and realize it’s time to get in line for the ferry.


Happy end of summer to you all!  I hope you are enjoying the being and the missing and the wishing.


  1. Loretta August 21, 2013 12:17 pm Reply

    Makes me wish I was collecting seashells at the seashore. Better to miss someone there….than here.

  2. Marcy August 21, 2013 1:22 pm Reply

    Dear, dear Jeannie,
    This is a wonderful story! Proof is this: I do not like beaches very much at all. (They are outside, and I am, generally, happiest when inside.) BUT, your story made me long for a trip to a beach. Now, I must determine if I want a pebble, shell, or skipper beach!
    Bye for now,

  3. Phebe August 21, 2013 2:51 pm Reply

    I love the beach. I love collecting shells … and I got to go to the beach and collect shells and marvel at them for a few minutes at lunch with you two.

  4. Kelly Kuchar August 23, 2013 2:51 pm Reply

    You just made me tear up with the bittersweetness of it all…. Jenna and now Abby, too, will be heading off to college in the next few weeks. The following put it so nicely and in a way I can really appreciate right now:
    ” We just miss them the right amount, the amount that when you are away from one or two that you love, you feel a little heart-achy but okay because you know they are happy wherever they are. It’s a nice kind of missing, and it beats the alternative.”

    KEEP WRITING>.. I love it all …oxoxox

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