We went to Destin almost two weeks ago. It's the last spot our entire family vacationed together, and it is, to a person, our favorite place in the world. The stretch of beach called Miramar has clear blue Gulf and powder-fine sand. When we visit, it's always idyllically warm, no bugs, just lots of suntan lotion and a day split between the beach and the pool.
Jenny walked down the beach, back to where we were last year, and as she walked, she discovered a little shell that we have all called "butterfly shell" because it looks like two wings joined almost invisibly in the middle. She brought her butterfly shell home.
A few days later, I went out at low tide. I just like it when the water's receded and sand bars protrude, as if you're there at Earth's first day, the first person to stand on a never-discovered island. I had no intention of doing anything but walking and listening to the waves, but I'm my father's son, and I saw flecks of beauty revealed in the receding water. Beautiful shells. I picked some up, and after a few steps, became selective.
That day I found some beautiful butterfly shells. Must have been the season for them. I didn't want to crush them, and being improperly prepared, I just held my shells in my right hand as I wandered down the shore.
As I returned, my hand was mostly full. Incredible colors, some intriguing fossilizations, some just perfect. I kept the butterfly shells on the top of my stack, so I wouldn't break them.
A funny thing happened.
A gust of wind would blow, and a butterfly shell would catch the breeze, and fly out of my hand. I'd stop, hustle to the shell before it was recovered by water and sand, put it gently back into my hand, and keep walking.
And it happened again. And again. And being my father's son, I laughed. Because Dad always found the appropriate amount of humor in things by imagining someone watching himself as he was doing something. Here I was, middle-aged man, walking down the beach, chasing shells flying out of my hand.
I couldn't hold the butterfly shells too tightly - they might break. And I couldn't keep them from catching the breeze. If I was going to take them back to our room, I'd have to keep chasing them.
We can't hold on to them tightly enough. We still can't. Whatever my dad and Zoe began as, they were made to fly away.