California was an exciting first move away from home. With expectations full of sunshine, palm trees, and sandy beaches, my prospects couldn’t have been brighter. Life was good. I liked my new independence… until it got cold.
Somehow I had missed the part about paradise flying south for the winter. I thought that was only the swallows of San Juan Capistrano. With alternating days of cloud cover and fog banks, I found myself writing home within a week. I resigned some of my independence and gave a pleading description of my predicament to Mom and Dad. (Everyone deserves to have parents like mine.)
Shortly afterward I received a package in the mail. I was ecstatic, but the contents caught me a little off guard. Dad had sent me his own overcoat.
In my correspondence, I had mentioned my frustration in finding a coat I liked. The trend at that time was to adorn coats with an overabundance of straps, flaps, and buttons – much too fussy for my taste. Dad’s, however, was just the coat I couldn’t find.
After I had worn the overcoat for a while, I found an item that made this coat different from any other. Inside one of the pockets was a seashell Dad had left there. I’m not certain where the shell came from, but I guessed that it had come from one of his long ago visits to California. The last time I had seen the shell was a few years previous. Dad had been wearing the coat on that occasion. I remember him pulling out the shell to show me and then he carefully put it back.
Rather than remove the seashell, I decided to keep it right where I found it. Each day when I put the coat on, I would locate the shell, rub its worn and grooved surface between my fingers, and then put it back. I never did get homesick, but the reminder of home shortened the distance.
Years later, I’ve thought about that shell in relation to leaving another home, much further away. Like my Dad, I know I have a Father in heaven who thinks about his son. I’ve started looking for shells he may have placed in my life to remind me of where I come from. Fortunately for me I have found some. Each one holds a very specific meaning. Call me sentimental, but I tend to look at seashells a little differently ever since.