59: Just As I Imagined It

59: Just As I Imagined It

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Just As I Imagined It

Every day may not be good,
but there’s something good in every day.

~Author Unknown

I often walk at Kailua Beach, a two-mile crescent of white sand lined with palm trees on the windward side of O’ahu. I find walking there a good way to exercise and to shake off the “blues.” One December morning I set out to rid myself of a weeklong depression. With the holidays coming, I was facing Christmas without my daughters, who lived in Massachusetts. This year, none of us could afford the expensive plane fare to or from the islands.

When I reached the beach, I tucked my rubber slippers under a naupaka bush. In Hawaiian mythology, its white flowers symbolize love’s longing. How appropriate, I thought wistfully. As water lapped at my bare feet and waves curled over and collapsed with small explosions, all my senses conspired to conjure up memories of my girls romping in the waves and dribbling sand spires at the water’s edge. Maybe a beach walk was not a good idea after all. I looked down at my hands. Yesterday I’d noticed how the blue veins knotted their way under the papery skin. I thrust them into my pockets. Just then, I saw that the sand ahead was littered with shells, an uncommon sight here. Usually, the waves battered shells to bits on the offshore reefs. Some of the shells weren’t even native to Hawaiian waters. Yet, here lay glossy cowries, curly whelks, spotted cones and abalones glistening like polished teal and silver bowls.

Amazed, I wondered where they’d come from. You could buy them in hotel shops or at the International Market Place on Kalakaua Avenue, but why were they here? More than curious, I wandered among them and picked up a whelk with a pale peach lip curling outward.

Suddenly, a voice rang out, “Oh, please, don’t pick up the shells.”

Looking up, I saw two teenagers, a boy and a girl, arm-in-arm on the top of the sandbank. The girl, in her beach wrap, said, “Please leave the shells. They’re for my grandmother.”

“Are you serious?” I asked, with some confusion.

She was. I replaced the shell and continued my walk. At the end of the beach, I turned and retraced my steps. Now I could see the sheer majesty of the Ko’olau Mountains. When I reached the same stretch of sand, the young people were gone. Instead, I saw a solitary, silver-haired woman with winter-white skin, wearing a blue pantsuit and closedtoe shoes. She stooped to pick up a shell and put it into the plastic bag in her other hand.

As I passed her, the woman spoke. “I think I’ve got all the pretty shells. Would you like to see them?” She held out the bag to me. “This beach is just as I imagined it. Shells and all. A dream come true, and at my age! Look at this one!” She pulled out a cowry with dappled brown edges.

“It’s very beautiful,” I agreed.

“Here, take it. I have so many. I should have left some for others,” she said. Her frail, freckled hand trembled as she held out the shell.

“No, you keep it. I think these shells were waiting just for you.” I smiled, hoping she could somehow tell that I, too, had found something rare and lovely on the beach that day. I walked home grateful for the love in the world. My depression was gone.

~Norma Gorst
Chicken Soup from the Soul of Hawaii

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