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I can’t imagine the number of times I’ve been there visiting Florida, Christmas with my parents a plastic tree decorated with sand dollars and red ribbons, eating Christmas dinner and listening to Johnny Mathis. and after the Irish coffee, father with his brandy snifter in hand mother and the other girls putting away the dishes, the carolers would come, walking in front of our home singing “We wish you a Merry Christmas” over and over again. we would walk outside and the cool breeze almost felt like Christmas after the hot, humid days. and we would stand on our driveway smile and nod. you could see down the road all the candles in paper bags lining the street. and for a few lights the bag burned.


and we would take boat rides off the coast, my parents and their friends, to a tiny island. dad drinking beer sometimes steering the boat (being on control), the women sitting together in the shade worrying about their hair. i would sit at the front sunglasses, swimsuit and sunburn feeling the wind slapping me in the face and turning my head away from the boat into the wind away from them .to face it again. docking at a shoreline, everyone jumping out little bags in their hands; the women go looking for shells the men go barbecue. after an hour or two the sandwiches, potato chips eaten, the soda and beer almost gone, we turn around and head back. we have conquered.


and I remember the coquinas. the little shells, you could find them alive on the beaches north of the pier in Naples. going to the beach I would look for a spot to find them. I felt they were all my own. they burrowed their way into the sand to avoid the light, worming their way away from me. I unearthed a group of coquinas once, fascinated with their color of their shells, the way they moved before they could hide. I collected them in a jar, took them home with me.

what did you teach me? what have you taught me to do? is this it? is this what it has become? is this what has become of me? of you? of us?

and I took them home.

I added salt water and sand, but I couldn’t feed them. I realized soon that they would die.

so I let them.

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Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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