I found my first piece of sea glass the week I buried my mother.
I’d just moved in with Uncle Bob and Aunt Evelyn, and two days after the funeral, Aunt Evelyn invited neighborhood girls to the bungalow for a “meet and greet.” She set up a build-your-own sundae bar. So many girls, giggling and chatting. So many sprinkles, festive and happy. I sat in the corner poking my spoon at a single scoop of plain vanilla while my stomach churned. My mother just died. I wasn’t ready for rainbow sprinkles.
At some point Aunt Evelyn dragged me to the center of the floor and put a Wii remote in my hand. “Let’s play tennis!” she said with an overly wide smile of lips slicked with a sickly orange.
I’d never played tennis, never played an electronic game.
I tried to concentrate on the whizzing ball, but it moved too fast. My partner kept elbowing me in the side, and there was so much noise. In the final game, I accidentally hit my partner with the remote.
And gathered around her all of her friends who glared at me.
Needing to escape dirty looks and rainbow sprinkles, I ran to the beach. I tore off across the sand, my eyes frantically searching for shark teeth. I’d spent the first ten years of my life travelling the backroads and beaches of Mexico and Central and South America where Mom chased light. She was a photographer, and her heaven, if she believed in one, would be full of evocative light that gave life to images in her camera lens.
Together we collected shark teeth, particularly in our travels through the Gulf of Mexico. In her unique take on a homeschool science lesson, Mom explained that sharks continually shed their teeth, which fell to the ocean floor where they became fossilized points of shiny ebony, topaz, and pearl. “Jewels of the sea,” Mom called them. For her birthday one year I strung together a set of sharks’ teeth and presented her with a necklace.
“How extraordinary!” Mom exclaimed.
In the sands of Tierra del Rey, I found no shark teeth, but I discovered “tears of the sea”, frosted bits of glass, each tumbled smooth and softened by years of sand and salty waves.