This past weekend brought us to my hometown for the annual Seaside Heights Palm Sunday Easter Egg Hunt. It was a brightly lit, perfectly blue-skyed afternoon with a crisp southern wind and white-capped waves. And although the kids enjoy digging in the cold beach sand for plastic eggs, I love the feel of the damp granules moving between my fingers as I search for buried loot. (Assisting my little ones, I assure you.)
I have always loved the beach, no matter what the season or weather. I love sunbathing in the heat of July as well as walking down the beach in the wet misty haze of a post-hurricane autumn day, grey and gloomy. More than anything though, I love to search for the treasurers that our vast Atlantic deposits along the shore. And since I was able to walk while simultaneously carrying a pail, I have collected the ocean’s prizes.
For much of my childhood, I thought I would study to be a marine biologist… the natural course of events for a beach-bummy Jersey Girl. Although this longing did not come to fruition, I still love the ocean and now teaching my children about its bounty.
So, I want to share these amazing photos from our recent walk on the beach this Sunday. In all my life… in all my 38 years… I have only dreamed about finding a shell as big and majestic as the one I found just a few days ago. Truly a gift from God. I am so excited for you to see.
There were multiple skate egg cases dotting the beach on Sunday. Those skates must have been busy beavers mating last month. Even though I have found skate cases since I was little, I have never seen a skate in the ocean, ever. Horseshoe crabs… yes, skates… no. (Notice the cigarette butt? Hasn’t anyone told baby skates that smoking’s bad for your health, causes cancer and stunts growth?)
Ok, so this obviously isn’t a seashell, it’s a tampon applicator. I used to find these when I was little, except back then, they were mostly pink plastic. When I was really little, I had no idea what they were, totally oblivious; I just knew my older siblings told me not to touch them. When I was in my early teens, I knew what they were, but wondered how females changed their tampons in the sand without anyone noticing. Duh! Finally, when I was older, I got a clue and realized they were washing up on the beach from New Jersey’s wonderful policy of off-shore garbage dumping. Maybe they haven’t stopped this practice.
Here it is. I started to laugh and jump up and down when I saw this shell sitting in the sand as a wave washed across it. I yelled, “Look! Look! LOOK!” to my eldest son. He got so scared, he asked “Mommy, what is it?” I think he thought it was an alien animal waiting to pounce on us. He pleaded, “Don’t touch it!” I said, “Are you kidding? I’ve been waiting 38 years to find a shell as big and as beautiful as this one here on the Jersey shore. This is freakin’ awesome! We are so lucky!”
Can you believe it, I found a 7 inch Knobbed Whelk shell? (Ok, I had to do some research to learn its proper name.) Did you know it is the official state shell of New Jersey, signed into law by Governor Whitman? Was Christie Todd kidding us, the whelk as the official state shell? Ok, maybe I’ve found one or two of these shells on the beach before, but no more than 2 inches long and that’s over the course of three decades (almost four). In no way is this shell abundant in New Jersey. Instead, she should have picked the good-ole, found-everywhere-and-all-the-time-on-the-beach Surf Clam. Here’s a photo.
Moms, New Jersey beaches are truly the most pristine (albeit the tampon applicators and plastic forks) beaches on the east coast. From Sandy Hook to Cape May, the soft white sand of New Jersey far surpass the black-residue-left-on-skin sand of Virginia Beach or the cold waters of Old Orchard Beach in Maine. (South Beach in Miami comes in a close second, but it is SO hot down there and I didn’t find any shells. And I have yet to step on a Georgia beach— always wanted to do that.)
Let’s give our children memories for a lifetime.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by Brenda Milouchev, a New Jersey mom. Her fondest childhood memories are that of her days collecting on the beach including shells, seaglass, sandcrabs, starfish, and baby crabs floating in the tidal pools of the sandbar. Does anyone else remember that summer?