He held a heart in his hand. The ghostly, cordate form of a sea urchin skeleton, picked up as the tide receded by my own little urchin—five years old, blonde, sun-kissed and windswept. That day, we walked along an endless Welsh beach as the sun began to sink. The rippled surface of the sand was shining, dotted with white ovals—an influx of heart urchins, brought in by the waves. His small, sandy hand reached for mine as we strolled, eyes to the ground, searching for the perfect specimen. My sweet natural historian was keen to examine each skeleton we found, to handle it gently and wonder at it. The chosen sea urchin—his prized treasure, carried back to the campsite in a green plastic bucket—was lost, or shattered, long ago. Only my memory of the moment remains.
We never found another one, although we looked on beach after beach. Once or twice, the tide rendered up sea-smashed fragments, but a complete skeleton eluded us. The boy grew—still thoughtful, dark blonde now, and no longer reaching for my hand. Sometimes, he picks up stray pieces of smooth sea glass, but his search for sea urchins has been forgotten.
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