Home 9 Issue 9 shells by Olivia Cai

Olivia Cai, age 17


This is a snapshot from a happy memory of when my grandpa lived with us. It reminds me to cherish the small moments that I may not see the significance of in the moment but will look back on fondly.


that day the sun got tangled
in my grandfather’s graying hair,
twisting gossamer metallic wire
that graced his wisened scalp,
gold and silver that danced and gleamed
like a halo around his face.

we were out to collect nuts from the community woods,
and though i had to text my mom
to remind me if they were walnuts or pecans (they were pecans)
i remember the handle
of the little wooden basket digging
into my arm,
leaving soft indents in
the remnant malleability of infancy.
i remember honeyed rays dripping
through the trees,
dappling the grass
and our faces with gentle kisses of light.
that warm, sweet scent of the forest sticks fresh in my mind as if it were yesterday
despite the uncountable number
of yesterdays that have passed between.

my grandfather’s hands were creased and familiar
as they guided mine,
baby-smooth, to close my fingers
around a pecan nestled in the verdant forest floor.

that version of me
is as much of a stranger as another
person would be,
but i can imagine myself
laughing as the blades tickled my knuckles.

once our basket was overflowing
and my grandfather had taken it from me
to lighten my load,
he took my hand in his free one
and we walked home
past the lake with the geese i was afraid of.

the nuts chattered as
they tumbled onto a worn cutting board,
my grandfather’s deft hands splitting
their shells with a hammer.
i sat on a dusty green plastic stool,
swinging my socked feet
and reciting chinese poems
as he arranged them on a tray to
dry out in the oven.

it’s been years since i last ate a roasted pecan from my grandfather’s hand,
but the barely-there memory of the taste spins
like a mirage that dissolves quickly on the tip of my tongue.