My Grandmother’s Conch
When we sisters were young, Mother was ace at picking out the perfect gift for birthday or Christmas. One year I got a fly rod and a fashionable muff. Odd combination, but she knew where my interests lay. But once we were grown and out of the house, Mother was less likely to know what would be a wonderful gift and so she asked for lists. I asked for some books (I always wanted books) and a conch and promptly forgot about it.

On my birthday, among the packages, was one with a card from my grandmother. A grandmother who had been dead for several years. I thought it was a mistake, but Mother said, “Open it.” And there was my grandmother’s shell.

I have no idea where shell originally came from. All my grandparents lived in the middle of the country, far from any ocean, and they weren’t great travellers. I can only assume once upon a time they were fashionable, or maybe it came as a gift. In any case, I treasure it, not for its beauty, although it is beautiful, but because it once belonged to a beloved grandmother.


  1. Cat Lazaroff says:

    Such a lovely object! Did you know that conch pearls are among the rarest and most beautiful of the natural pearls? I always think of that when I look at the lush, deep pink of a conch shell.

    I have a conch in my cabinet as well – I brought it back from a wonderful vacation in Belize years ago. Though I almost lost it at customs – the customs form asked you to declare if you were bringing any “snails or mollusks” back with you. Honest to a fault, I checked “yes” and ended up getting my luggage torn apart and strip searched. But they let the shell pass, so now it inhabits my parlor as a reminder of sun and sea in Belize, and of the price of honesty.

  2. Terri Lewis says:

    I once got caught with mangos I was bringing back from Brazil. I just can’t lie! We also were in Britain during the time of the mad cow infection and had to say if we’d been on any farms. We had actually stopped on a side road to look at the scenery and walked up to a farm fence, but my husband said that wouldn’t count and we checked the box no.

    Have you ever seen a conch pearl?

  3. Lovely shell and a lovely story. Your mother was a gem to do that!

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