She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled. Pushing it deep into her pocket, she wrapped the heavy coat around her against the winter. Kate had not worn that coat since February of last year. The last time was during the funeral, when Grandmother was laid to rest. At twenty years old, Kate had tried hard to stay strong, to not sob like a child. Grandmother had practically raised her, and the loss had created a void that would never be filled.
The year that followed had been awful. Family was fighting over who would get what and what belonged to whom. Kate had tried to stay neutral, to not get involved. Uncle Ernest had taken the land and the property because he was the eldest of the three brothers. The aunts, uncles and cousins had fought over furniture and odds and ends, whatnots really. It wasn’t as if grandmother had much of any real value. She was the widow of a poor fisherman. The fighting seemed so senseless to Kate. Cousins and sisters and brothers would fast become unspeaking enemies for the sake of owning some little piece of property that meant nothing in the greater scope of things. She was fine without inheriting anything at all from the Estate; nothing was worth the remorse one would feel after years of estrangement. Kate was neither the oldest, nor the youngest, nor the favorite. She did not really feel entitled to anything at all. She felt entitled only to the memories.
She remembered as a small child, her grandmother taking her and the cousins out for walks on the beach. They would all carry pails to pick up seashells. They ran in the sunshine and tripped over driftwood while chasing seagulls. Grandmother would stretch her arms wide and look out over the sea and tell them the story of how their ancestors traveled across the vast ocean from places unknown to bring them to this wonderful country. She would tell them about how the great ship captains would use the movement of the stars at night in order to navigate. Grandmother said, “You should always hold your head high looking up at the world around you, so you will not lose your way by watching the sand at your feet that will be washed away with the waves.” Some days, they would spend the whole day at the beach and then go down to the pier to watch the boats pull into the marina and to see what the fishermen had caught. When they would get home, Grandmother would sometimes take her up into her lap and hold a shell to Kate’s ear so that she could hear the ocean. Grandmother told her that seashells could be made into special treasures. It was in those special moments that Kate knew how lucky she was to have known her grandmother.
Kate felt guilty that she had not visited her grandmother more often. Grandmother had aged so rapidly in the past few years since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her personality had changed. Kate felt that she was a stranger to her grandmother. School had been a real challenge combined with her job. Finding the time even for a brief visit was not an easy thing. It must have been that time in January, just before Grandmother was diagnosed with pneumonia. Grandmother must have placed the cameo into Kate’s pocket during that last visit. Carved from shell and framed in gold, it was a treasure she would cherish forever.
It was not something she wanted or asked for. It was something Grandmother wanted her to have. She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled.