The warmth of the sand under the children’s toes was welcoming. The ocean crashed its
waves onto the beach and the sun’s rays pushed them towards the cooling water. The
beach looked more inviting to them now than before.
Caleb grabbed Clara’s hand, pulling her to the water. The twins’ black hair bobbing
over the bright sand. Marie pushed Jamie lightly and sprinted towards the older two. Her
legs began to ache before she reached them, but her brother was laughing close behind her,
so she forced herself to carry on.
Their parents smiled as they sat against the white cliffs, the blanket spread out
beneath them. They felt a twang of guilt as the children splashed each other, squealing
happily. The beach had been off limits to them; only seen through the windows of their
The children played and splashed for a while before running back to their parents
shivering all over. Their mother laughed as they rubbed their hands up and down their arms
to keep warm. She wrapped the towels tightly around them and they sunk into them,
feeling the new warmth spreading through them. The adults shared a knowing look.
“When you have dried off, why don’t you collect some shells and stones to
remember this day at the beach?” Father smiled, showing them the colourful buckets that
lay next to him in the sand.
“Then, when you’re all finished, we can have some sandwiches.” Mother said,
coughing slightly. Their father frowned, then laughed at the children.
“Let’s help you dry off now shall we?” He ran after them, growling as they ran
around their picnic area laughing and shouting. They couldn’t hear their mother finishing
her coughing and that was the way she wanted to keep it.
Soon they were dry, wearing their summer clothes to keep them warm. They each
had their own coloured bucket and were told to collect as many pretty shells and stones as
they could. Their father wagged his finger at them playfully.
“Whoever collects the most wins a prize.” He grinned at his wife who gave him a
sharp look; she knew he didn’t have any such prize. But the children were already running in
separate directions, eager to win.
Caleb had run to the left of the beach, near the cliffs and the path leading the way
home. He loved the different sizes and shapes of stones, so he picked lots of different ones
at the bottom of the cliff face.
Clara had a different idea. She loved the rock pools so she decided that the prettiest
shells and stones would be around there. She hopped from rock to rock fishing some stones
out from the pools as she took in the smell of salt water. 107
Marie ran towards the sea where the waves pull back from the sand, leaving fresh
shells and stones in its wake. She shook off the squishy, wet sand and put them in the
bucket, greedily scooping them up in her childlike excitement.
Jamie, however, wandered across the soft sand pretending he was in the desert. He
dug through the sand for the stones and the odd shell, blowing off the sand before placing it
carefully in his red bucket.
Their parents watched them carefully from their spot, making sure they didn’t
wander too far. Father glanced at Mother worriedly. His lips trembled as he looked at her
bright red face, listening to her wheezing. He felt sick as he glanced at the children,
scattered happily across the beach: What would he tell them? Should he tell them anything?
Maybe it’s best not to tell them yet; at least not today. He just held her close as the laughter
bounced across the beach.
Soon the children were running back, presenting their buckets and shouting over
each other. Their mother smiled and showed them the basket of sandwiches. Buckets and
prizes forgotten, they sat down with a thump and ate ravenously.
On the walk home, the children chattered endlessly, showing each other the full
buckets. The trees waved to them in the evening breeze as the setting sun lit the way.
That evening as they sat around the fireplace, they each chose a favourite shell or
stone to put in a memory box to remember their first day back at the beach. Caleb proudly
showed his black and white stone, placing it in the glossy brown box. Clara put a stone
decorated with moss into the box. Marie shyly placed her small pink and yellow conch shell
into the box. Finally, Jamie deposited his shiny black stone into the box. Then they gave
their parents their buckets to pick something. The adults smiled, carefully picking through
the four buckets. Mother picked a red cockle shell and Father picked a cream scallop shell.
“Why don’t we put the rest of these in the garden? They’ll look lovely in the flower
beds.” Mother said, beginning to get up with one of the buckets. Her knees trembled but
she managed to stand. She proudly led the way to the garden through the house. They
spent the rest of the evening decorating the flower beds with the shells and stones from the
Ten years later, the children are no longer children. Their father is moving into a smaller
home, in the middle of town. Their childhood home is being sold and the four of them
solemnly pack everything up. Each of them felt sick and their hearts ached as they stared at
their empty home. The only home they really knew and loved. After sorting their separate
rooms, they all pack up the living room together. Sometimes one of them would find a
memory and show it to the others. They would smile and laugh, then come back down to 108
earth. A tear often escaped, and they looked at the picture of their mother on the
“Look what I found.” Caleb tried to smile as he picked up the glossy brown box and
Clara pushed her long raven hair over her shoulder as she stared into the box. “My
moss rock. I remember seeing a crab after I chose that rock.” She smiled widely now at the
Marie wiped a tear from her pink cheek as she moved around her brother. “Oh look,
my conch shell. Father would love to see this box again.”
“He would but I don’t want to upset him either.” Jamie’s brown eyes glistened in the
light as he peered into the box. “I thought I was an archaeologist and I loved to dig.” He
“Then let’s keep the box out of the other things and take this to Father today. While
we’re together.” Caleb nodded, decidedly.
In their father’s new home, they took the shells out of the box and placed them on
the new fireplace around the picture of their mother who will forever smile happily. They
sat around his armchair and spoke especially about that wonderful day at the beach. Tears
spilling and laughter high in the air.
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