|Anthony and me, in New Orleans, January 2010. The last time we took a trip just the two of us!|
It’s the last day of July, that firework, watermelon, sparkler-infused month that marks the true beginning of summer, and I am thinking about sea glass and love. Love because July is the month of anniversaries in my family. Anthony and I celebrated nine years of marriage on July 20th, and my parents celebrated 40 years together just four days later, on the 24th. Sea glass because I’ve been at the beach a fair amount this summer, and on my last trip I saw a basket of sea glass in Andy’s, the Barnegat Light store that sells sea shells, tourist trinkets, and old-school glass Coca-cola bottles. I take the girls there after every time we climb the Barnegat lighthouse. The sea glass intrigued me. I remember looking for sea glass on the beach as a child, but you don’t see it much anymore.
This year on my anniversary I watched my wedding video, something I haven’t done in several years. So much has changed. People we loved, dancing and smiling on the video, are no longer here. My grandmother. Anthony’s mom. Everyone is younger, some noticeably so. And, I think, we had no idea what we were doing, getting married. Or little idea. We were young. We were in love (and had been since we were sixteen), and we just wanted to be together. We hadn’t even begun to imagine what losing someone we loved would look like, or what it would feel like to hear a child call us “Mom” or “Dad” as she stretched her chubby little arms up, wanting to be held (and then, much later, to have that same child tell us, “Mom, Dad, stop fighting!”). Even more so, we had no idea about how the mundane could wear away at love. That things like leaving wet towels on the bedroom floor (me) or dirty dishes on the kitchen counter (Anthony) could matter. That love was not impervious to the bills, the car payments, the old and new jealousies, the anxieties about the future, private and shared. We had no idea that, yes, of course, these things would shape our love. But here we are. We know now. So how does it feel?
Some sea glass, I’ve read, comes from the champagne bottles broken to christen a boat, and I like this idea. First, the celebration. Then, the broken chards. Finally, years later, the sea glass. Softened and smoothed by decades underwater, sea glass is beautiful precisely because it has been tumbled in the deep, led by currents to far-off beaches (or close, perhaps). In a lovely little article I found in the Washington Post archives--Look What the Tide Brought In, by Jura Koncius, Thursday, August 11, 2005—I read that authentic sea glass is now quite a treasure. Lots of boaters use plastic now instead of glass, and even those who do use glass aren’t so quick to throw it overboard (a good thing, I suppose!). And once glass is on the ocean? It takes 10 years for a sliver of glass to show significant etching, and 20-30 years for it to be completely polished and rounded. The process cannot be faked.
This is how it feels. Sea glass and love.