WINNER! The First Annual “I Love Lucy [the Margate Elephant]” Memory Contest
Because an elephant never forgets…..
Then I challenged you to share a recollection of a place, object, or landscape that stays in your memory as something special.
Thanks to all of you who took the challenge, turned a memory into a story, and were willing to share it with us.
Thanks also to my panel of judges, who took their jobs very seriously!
The entries were wonderful. Long. Short. Fanciful, Practical. Some came with images, some didn’t. While my judges and I had discussions about judging criteria to help guide their selection, their gut instincts were their best guides, and we quickly came to our final decisions.
I’m delighted to announce that the first winner of the first “I Love Lucy [the Margate Elephant]” Memory Contest is Ms. Rebecca Hodgkins. Her story, Lagan, is a memory from her childhood, with elements of the magic we all believe in when we are young (and some lucky few still believe even as the years pile on).
Ms. Hodgkins wins the grand prize — a plush Lucy the Elephant (see above), sporting a bejeweled crown (stitched during the blackout caused by Hurricane Sandy).
A special prize for illustration goes to Ms. Anne Fontaine, who submitted “The Battle of Sand Hill Cove” accompanied by a watercolor/collage to help tell the story. The prize is a plush Lucy the Elephant (sorry, no crown for this category).
All other entrants receive a certificate of excellence. Please send me your mailing address (see the email address in the sidebar).
You’ll have the opportunity to read each of the wonderful stories, leading off with our winner, “Lagan” by Ms. Rebecca Hodgkins.
I had a weird childhood. My parents and I would take these trips to Nashville to see my Dad’s family. It wasn’t quite Shawn Mullens singing, “She grew up with the children of the stars,” but we’d go to a funeral and Dolly Parton would be there. My dad jokingly tried to trade me for a pair of black jeans to Alice Cooper on a golf course. When Elvis died, we sat stunned around my great uncle’s TV set while he called his son for the details firsthand. So I developed this sort of worldview that anything could happen, and probably would, if I simply expected it.
That’s how I explain the sand dollar.
But connected to the sand dollar is a memory I can’t even explain to myself. It did happen. I remember it happening. I remember it happening a certain way. It couldn’t have happened.
Nashville was only a stop on our way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – our “real” vacation. I’d spend the rest of the year in landlocked Illinois loving a place where I couldn’t be, thinking about the trip down, watching the moss begin appearing in the trees, waiting to see the gap in the land where I knew the ocean was, just over a sand dune, finally opening the car door and breathing in the tangy perfume of the Atlantic.
When I was seven, my dad brought home an illustrated book of seashells. Among the conches, the abalones, the spiraling snail shells like staircases, I found a page about sand dollars. That was it. I would find one on the beach. My dad was skeptical; we were too far north, he said. He’d never found one himself, and this would be his ninth trip there. But I was seven years old. I would find one, because I wanted to find one. Simple logic.
No one surfed Myrtle Beach. I had an inflatable canvas raft like everyone else, and I rode it back to shore on every wave I could catch. Sometimes, if I were lucky, I could catch a wave just behind the crest and I would fly all the way back to the beach. Without luck, I’d overshoot the sweet spot and tumble forward into the white foam, the wave throwing me under its feet. I’d come up sputtering and scared, feeling betrayed, then paddle back to the beach to build a sand castle until I felt the ocean had forgiven me, and it was safe to go back in.
I was pulling my raft behind me in shallow water when I first saw the sand dollar, round and white and only a few feet away. I lunged for it just as a wave came in and snatched it away. The water calmed between swells, and I saw it again, sitting back on the bottom in deeper water now. The same thing happened; as I reached for it, the next wave came and pulled it away. The water was too deep now to safely grab the sand dollar without going under. I knew I was being teased. I was too young to know I was being reeled in.
Frustrated, I rode the next wave back to the beach. Turning back, I saw it again, flipping over in the wave that followed mine. No – not a sand dollar but a piece of round, white cardboard – trash, a fool’s dollar. I was angry that the ocean would tease me like that. The sand dollar was out there. It was mine. I looked up the beach to where my parents had their umbrella and towels. My mom was lying down, my dad, reading a book. I paddled out past the breakers, watching the sand under my feet. Nothing. The bottom here was smooth and void of treasures. It was also at least four feet below my toes. I saw something, something bigger than a fish, moving just within the murk.
I never saw the wave coming. It picked up my raft and flung it forward. I lost my grip when my back hit the water.
I remember this.
I remember lying on the sand. I remember the way it felt as my fingers trailed through it, like silk. I remember opening my eyes because I wasn’t alone; I was being watched, or watched over; I felt curiosity flowing like a current around me. Above all, I remember feeling peaceful and safe. The sun shone down on me. And then it didn’t, as my raft floated across the light, six, maybe seven feet above me. It reminded me that I didn’t belong down here, despite the fact that I didn’t seem to be in any danger of drowning. I calmly sat up and pushed off from the bottom, broke the surface without so much as a gasp or pause in breath.
That is what I still remember, and what I cannot explain.
I paddled to my raft. Just as I pulled myself onto it, another wave came, picked me up and carried me all the way back to the beach, faster than I’d ever gone. I came to rest on the sand. And it was right there, not an inch from my hand. My sand dollar.
I picked it up and ran to the umbrella, excited to show my dad what I’d found.
I kept the sand dollar, of course. I wish I could send you a picture of it, but that’s impossible. We went back to the ocean every summer, moving north up the coast as the prices rose in Myrtle Beach. By the time I was fourteen, we’d made it to the Outer Banks. I was a bit of a lost teenager then, wanting independence from my parents, hanging out with a group of other teens from the condo we rented, and my dad decided that we’d had enough of the beach. We never went back.
A year later, the sand dollar (kept safe in my desk drawer) cracked right down the middle. By the time I was packing for college, it had turned to a fine powder, only the little “doves” inside left sitting on the pile like lagan at the sandy bottom of the ocean.