Nature & Me, Parenting, Storytelling

A Storied Shell: Sharing Childhood Stories

We all have memories of our time spent in nature as children. For some it may be camping trips, collecting rocks, watching fireflies on summer nights or wading in mountain streams.

For me, a poignant memory is spending time at Topsail Island in North Carolina with my family and two very special great aunts. One of my favorite things to do as a child at the coast (other than getting sandy and riding ocean waves) was collecting baby ear shells. It felt like finding a treasure when I spotted one on the beach amongst a pile of wave-battered or more commonplace shells.

I have a jar of these shells that I found throughout childhood on display. Seeing the collection reminds me of wonderful memories. It’s a doorway to my past, and I feel reconnected to my younger self.

Most importantly, this collection sparks stories and conversations to share with my son.

I’ve noticed that when I share my childhood stories, he listens with delight and great interest as he imagines my younger self. My childhood magically connects with his. My childhood story becomes part of his story. A thread is woven that connects past, present and future.

Now when we go to the beach, my son always looks for this shell to gift to me. A story, memory and tradition have been passed down; new traditions and memories have been kindled.

As a child, I loved to hear stories from my parents and grandparents about their past. My paternal grandfather grew up on a farm with nine siblings and was quite the storyteller. He readily shared knee-slapping childhood stories that painted vivid pictures in my heart and mind. I felt connected to his younger self and felt a deeper connection with his spirit.

With all the books and shows and music and apps, it’s easy to be (pre)occupied. But the baby ear shell reminds me that sharing our stories and memories with younger generations cultivates delight, connection and meaning.

The unspiraling pattern of the baby ear evokes a sense of expansiveness — making room for more memories and experiences.

It invites listening.

When I reconnect with my childhood and share that with my son, his sense of familial history is nurtured and so is our relationship. Nature nurtures for generations.

Is there a treasure from nature or a natural place that evokes strong childhood memories? What story does it have to tell?

What wonder does it behold?

What childhood stories are you inspired to tell the children in your life?

Storytelling may not come naturally for all of us but consider sharing a childhood nature treasure or memory and spark a sense of wonder.