Moonlight fell through Nancy’s bedroom window. It came to rest on her last birthday present. Today I am ten, Nancy thought to herself. Double digits! Nancy had gotten some very sad news, which had eaten away at her excitement. She started to wonder if she’d ever remember these thoughts. Her hands traced the quilt that her grandma had made for her when she was a baby. Grandma had given every color on the quilt a number. Orange was one, yellow was two, purple was three, and so on. Last year she had been nine, which was red. This year she was ten, which was blue, like the ocean.
Frost clouded the window, and outside snow lined the streets. Cars’ headlights cast shadows across Nancy’s bedroom walls as they drifted down Elm Street. Headlights illuminated her tidy, small room. The walls were painted blue, and the floor was wooden with a little, oval gray carpet next to her bed. On the windows were little white curtains with a rose design. Nancy’s bed was plain and wooden with yellow cream bedsheets covered by her grandma’s quilt. In the far right of the room was a little desk with a chair. Also, there was a little bedside table next to her bed and in front of the window. The room was tiny but Nancy felt safe and cozy in it.
Nancy turned to look at the last present, enclosed in a plain, wooden box. It was the only one from her grandma. A sob rose to her throat. Her grandma had died just today, on her birthday. She wiped her eyes with her sleeve and tried to blink back the rest of the tears. Grandma’s doctors told them that she had died of a heart disease. She imagined her energetic grandma lying on the floor, frail and helpless, unable to move. A shiver went up her spine; she didn’t want to think about it.
Uncertainly, she reached towards the box. Her fingers swept gingerly over the rough wood. Did she dare open it? Her hands clasped the lid and slowly lifted upward. Nancy drew in her breath as she saw what was inside. A beautiful conch shell lay nestled at the bottom of the box.
A vivid memory came flying back to her. Suddenly, Nancy was a five-year-old, walking at Hanson Beach, staring admiringly up at her grandmother with devoted love. Her grandma had a young look about her that Nancy had never seen before. Her name was Hillary; it seemed to fit her, the little girl had thought, while looking at her grandma’s round blue eyes, gray bouncy curls and rosy cheeks. Her grandma leaned over and picked up a big shell and handed it to Nancy. “This is a conch shell. When you put it to your ear you can hear the ocean,” she had said.
Back in her room, Nancy carefully picked up the shell and put it to her ear. It did sound like the roar of the ocean. Nancy ran her hands over the shell’s rough grooves. Inside it was shiny pink and twirled around like the inside of a human’s ear. Nancy dipped her nose toward the pearly pink inside of the shell. It seemed to smell like her grandma’s perfume mixed with the salty smell of the ocean.
Why had her grandmother given this to her as her last present? She twisted her hands together and tried to think. Gingerly, she turned the shell over in her hands repeatedly. Soon Nancy came to a conclusion; this was the conch shell she and her grandma had found on Hanson Beach. The answer hit her like a punch to the chest. Tears of happiness and sadness poured down her cheeks. This was her grandma’s goodbye present to her, a souvenir of a memory they had shared together.