Better Than Sea Glass

When I visited Liz in New Jersey last November, I was tremendously excited to find a bunch of sea glass (and a couple of other treasures) on a little side trip to Seaside Heights.

Sea Glass and Colones

I thought Liz was just pulling my leg when she told me that in her entire life of living there, she had not found as much sea glass on the beach as I had on that one day.

“Ha ha, Liz. Very funny.”

I was all ready to go back to Seaside during my visit a couple of weeks ago and just, you know, grab another handful of it. As you do.

Um. Best laid plans?

Here’s what we found.

Sea glass May 2014

You can’t tell from the picture but those two pieces of sea glass are, when touching, about the size of a dime and not anywhere close to the handful I found last fall.

The only logical explanation for the amount of sea glass I brought home in November is this:

Okay, I don’t have a logical explanation.

It had to be magic, pure and simple.

We even spent a couple of glorious hours hanging out on the beach at Seaside on this last visit, soaking up the sun and digging our feet into the brown sugar-textured sand, snort-laughing and making “get a room” comments to each other about a young(er) couple that nearly did the deed about thirty feet from us, and alternating between chatting and sharing the comfortable silence that comes easily to good friends.


This! Does not suck!

(Photo lifted from Liz’s Instagram stream. Caption: “This! Does not suck!” Related: I want to go back to there.)

Even having fun while waiting for the tide to go out a bit didn’t make any more sea glass jump up at us.

Luckily, I’m flexible. (Stop laughing. I really am. Sometimes.) It may not have been the visit for adding to my sea glass collection, but I found some other really cool things at the Shore that came back to Chicago with me.

One day we went for a really nice walk on the north end of Sandy Hook Beach and found what I learned are called “Mermaid’s Toenails.” (It wasn’t until I got home that I realized—and only because J pointed it out—that mermaids don’t even have feet. I’m quick like that.)

Mermaid toenails

Those beautiful shells were EVERYWHERE at Sandy Hook. I didn’t see them in such massive quantities at any of the other beaches we visited. That’s one of the very cool things about New Jersey: you can visit beaches that are ten minutes apart but they each have their own characteristics, from sand color and texture to water color to surrounding building styles to overall personality. If beaches could have personalities, you know.

We visited Point Pleasant Beach, which isn’t too far from Seaside, and didn’t find sea glass there either. Instead we found a bunch of these really cool translucent brown shells.

Translucent brown shells

My kingdom to anyone who can tell Liz and me about these shells. We Googled and Googled, and still couldn’t find them.

I also loved finding broken pieces of shells whose edges had been curved and smoothed by their time in the ocean, crashing against the shore and headed back out to sea again until the next time.

sea glass shells

I think in my infinite wisdom I actually said something to Liz like, “These are like ‘sea glass shells’, I mean…SEA SHELLS! Sea shells! Yeah!”

Right. And, obviously. It sounded good in my head, anyway. (Like so many other things. Sigh.)

I really think they are lovely, and it occurred to me—and this is not something totally cheesy I made up for this post; it is something totally cheesy that REALLY occurred to me on the beach—that these beautifully “rehabbed” pieces of shell are a lot like the strongest of people, going through the struggles of life but coming out with more beauty and character in the end.

I know. Cheesy. I’m sorry. Maybe I should go back to Point Pleasant so I can refine my theory and make it sound less cheeseball. Now, please. *blinking eyes really hard*

All in all, even though I didn’t bring home more than a dime’s worth of sea glass this time, I brought home something even better. Not the Mermaid’s Toenails or the translucent brown shells or the Sea Glass Shells… those are awesome but what will stick with me are the beachside memories that we made, that aren’t the same as last time and aren’t exactly like they will be the next time, and I’m totally fine with that.

Of course, I guess the reminders are nice too.



  • Momo

    Flexible. LOLOLOL!

    I your flexibility, and your cheeseballness. And, I love Liz’s snort-laugh and popcorn eating. So, any reminders of you are so sweet. This is probably why I had glittery, tiny hats on my mantle for three months.

    • Melisa Wells

      Wait, you took the tiny hats down?? SIGH.
      But I still love you. And I love YOUR popcorn eating and now I can’t stop laughing again.

  • Liz

    Those are J’s bowls, the ones he made in pottery class, right? They make your Jersey treasures look really awesome. I just love that! Related: we miss you!

  • Chuck

    We recently found more of those brown translucent “shells” on the jersey shore (LBI and Island Beach State Park). After a little investigating we discovered that they are not a shell at all but rather the operculum of some type of snail. It’s the hard plug the snail uses to protect itself when it retracts within its shell. The only shell of equivalent shape and size in the area is the sharks eye so they might belong to them. Hope that helps solve the mystery.