My Love Story

By Cathy Brown

san juan islands beachcombing

My love story began back when I was very young. I had a love affair. I thought it was unique, that I was the only one that felt this way. It was a romance that I looked forward to every year. I spent all winter dreaming about what summer would bring, a colorful whirlwind of pure obsession and daydreams.

When I was a little girl in the 1960s my grandparents retired and moved to the San Juan Islands, Washington. Every year we would spend our summer vacations there. That’s where my romance started.

My grandmother was a member of the “walking club,” a group of ladies who met every Wednesday at the local café for lunch. I can still taste the buttery grilled cheese sandwich. After lunch, we would caravan to one of the beaches around the island.

With a beachcombing bag in hand, we set out for an afternoon of pure bliss. We found sea glass and beautiful purple, green, and blue whole bottles, as well as driftwood, rocks, shells, and agates. We scoured for treasures until we lost track of time and then gathered around at the end of the day to share our most cherished finds.

beachcomber collection of bottles

My grandmother had three decades’ worth of beachcombing treasures, and when she passed on, I inherited her collection. Today I am surrounded with not only her “cherished finds of the day,” but also a wealth of childhood memories to last me a lifetime.

By now you might think you know what this romance and love affair was all about, but there really is a love story here. I hadn’t been back to my grandparents’ island for 30 years, so last summer the love of my life took me back for a trip down memory lane. My grandparents’ house is still there, and the café is still in business, proudly displaying a sign reading, “Established 1958.”

Nothing had changed except for one thing. We strolled, dug, and combed the beaches, but all the treasures were gone. No sea glass, bottles, or shells to be found, though there was plenty of driftwood. Just as we were leaving and I had convinced myself that driftwood and reliving sweet memories were enough, my man pops up from between the mounds of driftwood and says, “Hey what about this?”

seaglass heart

My hero not only found a huge piece of sea glass, it was in the perfect shape of a heart!

I don’t know which I loved more at that moment—but both will be stored away in my memories as the greatest romance and love affair of my life.

best beaches for beachcombers

Learn more about the best beaches and destinations for sea and beach glass, seashells, fossils, rocks, and more beach finds around the world. Articles ›

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2019 issue.

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