She was seven years old the first time she set foot on a beach. As she made her way to the shore in childlike anticipation, she suddenly felt her heart sink in disappointment as she watched her feet step through the grass-overgrown sand. Styrofoam cups and plastic bags blew past her. There was no water in sight. She thought the ocean would look like it does in the movies, and miles of fine, sparkling sand would stretch out before her with deep blue waves reaching as far as she could see.
As she made peace with her crestfallen expectations, her bear foot stepped on something hard and sharp. She jerked back, angry at this stupid beach, and checked the bottom of her foot. No cut. She bent down to examine the culprit. As she grasped the object and raised it eye level, golden, liquid-like sand poured to the ground in a single, fluid stream. She was left holding a shell. A real seashell. Like on TV. Her mouth fell open in amazement as she traced with her fingers, the tiny, perfectly aligned ridges. The small shell was colored in shades of brown, white, and gray, so precisely blended, she was sure it had been painted by hand and then accidently dropped on the beach. It was cracked, missing half of its form. Still, it was the most fantastic treasure she’d ever come upon and she would keep it forever.
Suddenly motivated, she scanned the ground in fervent concentration, seeking more seashells. So intent was she, that she didn’t notice the grassy part of the beach was now behind her and lain out before her was the mighty ocean and miles of the uninterrupted beach she had sworn off earlier. Soon she spotted another shell. This one was shiny on the inside. Shiny and smooth, exactly what she always imagined a pearl looked like. What if it was made out of a real pearl? And she found it. Yes, this one would be an eternal treasure as well.
Now ravaged with the unbreakable focus of a hunter, she uncovered more and more seashells. Soon she found a pile of them and could not load her pockets fast enough. She would probably be on the news for uncovering so many, and museums would certainly want to buy some of them. But for now, she couldn’t bear the thought of parting with a single one. When one of the dozens fell out of her hand, she hastily reached for it, apologizing to it and dusting it off with the care of a mother. Soon, she would have to take them back to the car to make room for more.
She stood up to scan the beach for her next treasure site and as she looked from side to side, her mouth again dropped in amazement. It was the ocean. The real ocean, right there. She never fathomed it could be so large. The end was nowhere in sight, not side to side, or way in the back where the sky ended. She always thought the ocean would be like the pond by their house, only bigger. But the ocean was like land, it went on and on, only it was water.
She walked towards the wet sand next to the water where gentle waves washed up and down the beach. She just had to touch it. She guarded her shells, careful not to drop a single one into the ocean, and stuck her big toe in the water as it came up. It was cold, but she did it. She touched the ocean and now she would forever be a part of it. She sat down on the line between dry and wet sand with her dozens of valuable shells and watched the ocean, sky, and sand. She would never forget this day. All of her hopes and dreams for the ocean had not only come true, but had been surpassed. From then on, her heart would always belong to the sea.