She Used to Listen to Seashells
A fictional short story about a woman’s struggle to cope with the unexpected death of her mother
“Hold it up to your ear.” her mother said warmly, as the young girl lifted the tiny seashell.
“Can you hear it?”
“Hear what?” The young girl replied.
She listened carefully, but couldn’t hear a thing. So she jammed the seashell further into her ear until finally, she heard the roar of the far-off ocean waves. She immediately lit up, and a smile spread across her mother’s face.
. . .
This was a memory that crossed my mind now and again, especially around this time of year.
Of course, I know that you can’t hear the ocean through a seashell. Much like many of the stories our parents told us during our childhood, they were all little white lies creatively spun to keep the magic alive.
I used to believe in that magic. That the world was a beautiful place, where fireflies were secretly tiny fairies who granted us wishes and the Man in Red would visit each Christmas Eve, delivering presents under our discount department store Christmas tree.
But that magic died the day my mother did.
Now, all that’s left in her absence is a dark, empty pit in the bottom of my stomach. A feeling that has become so familiar to me in the 8 years since she passed, that I hardly recognize myself without it.
Somedays, it’s more bearable than others. Other days, I find myself breaking down in tears in the dollar store greeting card section. Something about seeing all the happy 60th, 70th and 80th birthday cards overwhelm me with a wave of sadness. I mourn all the years she could have, should have had left.
. . .
“SURPRISE!” We all yelled as our mother walked into the front door. My mother hated surprises. Even so, nothing could stop that smile from spreading across her face when she saw all of us standing together in paper party hats and glitter-filled birthday balloons.
My mother lifted me into a warm embrace. As she did, she noticed the bright blue ink staining my cheeks…