I’m often haunted by a childhood memory.  It is a memory that often makes my heart hurt, my stomach queasy and my eyes leak. This memory is an unwelcome force in my life that drives me and keeps me searching.

What am I searching for?  I want to find a sand dollar.  A perfect sand dollar, that is.  No chips or cracks or apparent signs of weakness.  You see, my haunting memory is all about the Holy Grail of Sand Dollars.  My Dad found that shell of perfection during one of my glorious childhood summers spent at Holden Beach.  Dad gave me the very fragile and treasured sea surprise — with no hesitation or mistrust, he laid it in my hand for me to keep forever.  Well, for about 2 minutes until it crumbled apart in my exuberant grasp.  I will never forget the shock and disappointment that rocked my world in that instant.  There was no scathing reaction from my Dad, not even a look of disgust.  He just smiled and told me to keep my eyes open and that I would find another.  It was nothing to cry over.  Ha!  I cried about that sand dollar each remaining day of our vacation.  I cried about it a month later while sorting through the many seashells I did find and keep.  I continue to cry over it whenever life crashes around me and I feel that I’ve no one to blame but myself.

In all the years since I lost that treasure, I have returned to the beach to search for the perfect sand dollar.  I have kept my eyes open as my Dad instructed.  I’ve searched at high tide, low tide, early mornings, harsh noons, late evenings.  On sunny days, days covered in clouds and yes, even in a thunder storm. And yet, it still eludes me.  Not the sand dollar itself.  As I have found countless ones over the years.  But the perfection of that one shell forever drives me, even though my very logical, practical brain assures me the perfection was in that one moment in time and not in the shell itself.  But my heart tells me otherwise.