This is an excerpt from my second memoir, Stepping Stones: A Memoir of Addiction, Loss, and Transformation.
“Lining up all my conches and other shells like students in a classroom, I’m mindful of what they are teaching me.
Once I waded into a cave in the sea around Greece and found a large cache of sea urchin tests, or exoskeletons, long since abandoned by their hosts. When my family left Athens in 1990 I packed them as carefully as my mother’s Limoges china, but I’ve loved them more.
The most beautiful shell I have used to sit on the window seat in my mother’s hillside home in Massachusetts. We found it at dead low tide one hot summer day at Duxbury Beach when I was seven. She had held onto that conch for over fifty years, maybe for the same reason I have trouble throwing my shells away: the assurance that something of us is left behind.
From each of my beach excursions, I’ve made sure to bring back a shell or two. And in the fifty years that I’ve been amassing my collection, I’ve run out of space to display them.
Now, my son chides me, I must leave them where they are—and driftwood too—to shore up the beach.”