Conversations from the Beach

nautilus shell

I was in Boca Grande last week, giving a book talk to benefit the Johann Fust Library Foundation. A dear friend of mine, who I had not seen in several years, joined me for the two nights. Each morning we walked along the beach, reaching down to pick up shells of interest, remarking at the school of 50 stingrays fluttering along the shoreline, while letting our conversation follow the drift of time.

Irma is originally from Albania. She came to this country after winning a green card in the US immigration lottery. I met her through my friend Gretchen, who had worked with her in Paris, and asked me to look out for her when she first arrived in Vermont. We met over a friendship quilt for Gretchen’s 50th birthday, which I organized among her closest friends. We had each agreed to print or embroider a square with memories, photos, words and quotes that would be sewed into a patchwork quilt.

But somebody needed to put it all together. I could sew and use a machine, but it would surely have had uneven edges. I asked Irma if she could help me. She was delighted, and explained how she learned from her mother how to sew, knit and crochet. It was a natural part of growing up in Albania. I still remember my mother teaching me how to thread a needle and knot the thread by winding one end around my forefinger, rolling my thumb along it, and pulling.

Irma’s and my friendship was born of these common threads. We talked of clothes and sweaters we had made as we walked along the beach. I felt a sense of nostalgia for a time largely gone by, when friends came together over a quilting bee, dyed and spun yarns together in each other’s homes, and shared patterns for clothing or recipes for food or life.

Today when we get a hole in our socks, we throw them out. What happened to darning? How did time get so precious that it became more important to fill up on gas, drive our car to the store, and buy a new pair of socks instead of repairing the old one? Which is more gratifying? Being with Irma reminded me of what’s important. I picked up another shell before turning for home.

What do you long for from a time gone by?
What can you bring back into your own life?


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8 Responses to Conversations from the Beach

  1. Phyll says:

    Beautiful sentiments. I share your nostalgia for the past in terms of a quieter, slower time and long for such precious moments, again. When sitting on the front porch and waving to neighbors and children skating or cycling by was a lovely way to spend the evening. When playing checkers with my Mom and Dad then having supper all together ’round the kitchen table was an expected routine. When “doing nothing” was deemed important for a child’s “play time” and development.

    What I bring back into my own life these days is my beloved pony, Dancer, and our carriage that he steadily pulls, prancing down winding roads, inhaling the sweet, fresh air of the countryside. This is my purest passion and deepest joy. For, when we’re together driving ’round the bend, I feel part of the landscape that surrounds us—Nature, wildflowers, birdies singing, sunshine gleaming— feeling Divinity, alongside, and a healthy, happy heart. Clippity-clop, clippity-clop. . .

  2. Darrel says:

    Each year we fly to Texas to watch grandkids while our son & wife attend meetings. My wife just retired and let me know we now had no work schedule to keep us from driving, and we could spend a couple of days with my cousin in Oklahoma City on our way to Texas. We did. Remembering Grandparents, looking at old pictures and just visiting, until 1:30 one night and 12:30 the next night brought memories that neither of us thought about for years. Since she is 8 years younger than I am, we were never close, but the bond of family soon overcame any age difference, and we shared our similar and our different experiences growing up in our family. Even though I do not long for times past, this visit brought a friendship into my life I could have with no one else because of our childhood experiences with our grandparents as. I had not visited with her in any significant way until this weekend. Now I have, not only a cousin, but a close friend for life.

  3. What a lovely story Darrel. I think what you are alluding to is the value of shared memory. I’m so happy for you that you have found both a cousin and a close friend with whom you can share your common roots and build new memories together.

  4. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Hi Eileen,
    First, I enjoyed looking through the Johann Fust Library Foundation website. What a lovely library, so pink, sunny and inspiring for readers and those who share interests. I am sure your talk was appreciated. Raising money is hard work in my opinion.

    Second, shared walks, along special beaches, talking, remembering, picking up shells is part of life for as long, as one lives and breathes the rich sea air. Do not fret that those days of getting together to walk, quilt, sew, talk, share and ” converse” are over…

    The question is “Who is planning to take over the reins of putting together the next round of get togethers?” It has to be organized, subject, time, date, place, don’t you think?

    Third, how sweet that you remember your mother teaching you to sew. My mother used to say to me, “Elaine, I hate to see you sew! One day is for laying out the pattern; another day is for pinning and cutting; then, you have to baste and finally, you can sew.” Then, she would say, “I studied fabrics.” Ha ha, dear mother Katherine, do you think the great heroines in literature
    sewed? She could have answered the question with her English Literature major! Well, Eileen, maybe your mother and my mother have visited in the heavens and exchanged their stories about family and all that mattered to them… Happy gardening. Elaine

    • Isn’t it interesting how many lenses into the world there are? Your mother’s dread of sewing versus my mother’s pride in it. Though perhaps your mother had to do more than her share of it. Anyway, I hope they are having a good exchange in the spirit world!

  5. I long for the time burning fall leaves was legal. What a heavenly smell that was. Love all the seasons and live where I get to experience all, but fall brings back memories of huge piles of leaves. Much jumping, rolling, giggling, screams. They stuck in our hair and on our coats so that we ended up looking like walking scarecrows.

  6. I love the image of you jumping in leaves Tricia! And it evokes many happy memories to me too. Thanks for bringing the smell of leaves right to my nose!

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