One starfish, one daughter’s gift

July 19, 2020

Years ago, my husband and I traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, with our daughter Lena. We ventured out to Stanley Park, which abuts the Pacific Ocean. As I looked over an embankment, I spotted a starfish. Not just any starfish. This one was bright purple and larger than my hand.

“I’ll get it for you, Mom,” Lena beamed. As she scaled the rocks below, I yelled, “It’s too dangerous. Be careful.”

Triumphant, she emerged with the starfish in hand.

At the hotel, I gently wrapped it in a plastic bag and layered it between clothes in my suitcase. But we were not planning to go home for several days.

The starfish began to smell. By day 5, it was noticeably stronger in the hotel. Soon my clothes smelled fishy. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea, but I was determined, and it survived the journey back to the East Coast.

I set the purple starfish high upon the dining room hutch and left it to dry. Until my husband thought it best to put it on a sunny coffee table on the screened-in porch.

As I approached the area, I heard a very loud crunch. In horror, I ran to see our dog Rudy with my starfish in her mouth. I shrieked. She dropped it. My husband came running.

“Look!” I screamed at my husband, holding up my treasure. “I have a 4-pointed starfish! How could you do this to me?”

“I thought it would dry better in the sun,” he explained.

I was so angry when I arrived at school that morning that I slammed the car door shut just as a first-year teacher emerged from her car.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“My dog ate my starfish,” I explained through tears. She blinked twice.

“It was my husband’s fault.” She blinked three times.

How could I explain this to her unsympathetic face? It was a perfect purple starfish gifted to me by my one and only daughter. And then. Then it was a sea biscuit.

While that starfish seemed wholly important to me then, it wasn’t important in the scheme of things. Living with the threat of a virus, we all struggle for some perspective.

I forgot my mask on the way to the ladies room at a local restaurant. I didn’t think about it until I looked at myself in the mirror. I grabbed a paper towel and held it up to my face and exited the ladies room. As I passed the server, she laughed at me. “Great job! You’re almost to your table.”

This morning, a friend told me she didn’t want her daughter and grandchildren to visit this month because her husband’s health has been compromised. But after weeks of sleepless nights, she and her husband have decided it’s OK to have family in the house.

I gave my dog Rudi the rest of the starfish. My husband surprised me with a gold one to wear on a chain around my neck. It wasn’t the starfish that mattered. It was the fact that my daughter gave it to me. She was headed overseas, and I wouldn’t see her for four months. And right now I can’t fly overseas to see her in Spain. But I will! I know that eventually, I will!

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