She Sells Sea Shells on the Sidewalk

So my friend Karl and I were driving to this awesome little cafe for lunch the other day. Gorgeous weather; we had an appointment to tour a theater venue later in the afternoon (we do theater stuff); general all-around awesomeness.

I was the one driving, and I got so caught up in whatever conversation we were having that I missed our turn. No big – this was a nice suburban neighborhood, not the insane, skyscraper, there-is-no-god-here-only-one-way-streets part of the city, and therefore we were able to address the issue without a three-car-pileup and/or existential crisis. Just parked a block farther away than we initially intended and started walking.

As we were heading up the sidewalk, discussing Tibetan philosophy and Game of Thrones, we passed a (literal) white picket fence with a fold-out table nestled in the open gateway.

For a split second we were confused – not exactly the right season for a lemonade stand? – but between the hand-drawn banner proudly hanging overhead, the spray of muted color across the tabletop, and the polite exclamations of the young vendors, it quickly became obvious what we had stumbled into.

Seashells.

These two enterprising girls – less than ten years old, I’d guess – had apparently gone on vacation somewhere with LOTS of seashells, and had taken it upon themselves to collect some particularly awesome specimens and offer them to the rest of us sad folks back home hanging out in places that are not covered in pretty ocean detritus. There were giant conchs, tiny little beauties the size of my fingernails, and even small glass bottles filled with gorgeous bits and fragments (including one “special” centerpiece shell in each, as one of the merchants proudly pointed out to me).

Karl and I spent a solid five minutes standing at that table, making conversation with the increasingly thrilled proprietors of this little shop as we deliberated over which shells were going to be our precious-es. The girls were watched over from behind by their mother, who smiled through the whole process of these two college-age folks getting REALLY, REALLY EARNESTLY EXCITED at the prospect of buying seashells from her daughters. (Look, seashells are exciting. Don’t judge.)

I selected one of the little bottles, and Karl loaded up two huge pieces of coral, a butterscotch-colored conch, and a little bottle of his own. Altogether this cost us about $10. I will never forget the poorly-suppressed excitement on those kids’ faces as they realized they were actually going to make aN ENTIRE TEN DOLLARS. THEY LOOKED LIKE THEY MIGHT PULL A MUSCLE FROM TRYING NOT TO JUMP AROUND WITH GLEE.

They thought they were being subtle about their excitement. They were not. It was really great.

When we’d concluded our purchases we headed off to our lunch again, exchanging cheery waves with our new friends, the bright purveyors of shells.

Something about that little unexpected encounter made me so profoundly happy. Maybe it was the fact that these two kids had taken the time to carefully arrange, price, and proudly advertise their little treasures. Maybe it was the way they were so damn excited by such a small and simple transaction. Maybe it was the simple joy of obtaining a pretty trinket on a sunny day in the company of a good friend.

I dunno. Probably all of those things. What I do know is that my infamous collection of shiny knick-knacks now has a wonderful new addition, and every time I see it on my desk I just can’t help but smile a little.

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Follow Hannah’s Manifesto of Stubborn Hope for inspiration, tips and tricks, stories, and a general assortment of stuff and things for fearless creatives.

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