A humble gem

My cousin collects sea glass—shards of ordinary glass bottles discarded without a thought that eventually wash up on shore.  The waves and glass wrestle in the world's infinite rock tumbler.  Eventually, the glass submits and a polite dance begins—back and forth, back and forth—the waves and glass slowly kiss the beach.  With twists and turns, the sea refines, polishes, and perfects each chip individually. Then suddenly, as if time is up, the sea spits its accomplishment—a humble gem—onto the shore.

As she carefully inspects and nurtures each once sunken treasure, my cousin transforms the old, ordinary, washed-up shard of glass into a new, priceless, extraordinary family heirloom.1

As a whole, members of the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation grew up with similar values including duty, honor, sacrifice, and accomplishment. They did what they had to do because it was the "right thing to do".  They did not expect fanfare.  They are even more humble now as they reject the limelight of their accomplishments and sacrifices.

"… You'll hear voices and more stories, as the Greatest Generation and their families speak out, some for the first time.
Many of them say they felt they had no audience until now. You'll also hear how the dialogue sparked by the book caused
younger generations to reexamine their own lives and values, with a fresh perspective."
- Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation Speaks

Limiting beliefs

Often, members of these generations believe the events of their personal life were so ordinary, so normal, and so mundane that they should discard their memories without a thought.  We, their children and grandchildren, know this belief is inaccurate.  We also know this belief threatens our ability to comprehend ourselves… completely.

When we don't ask our mother or grandmother about her life, we feed into her I'm-too-ordinary belief.  Oh, we ask her to babysit, and she lovingly helps us out of our jam.  We ask her what happened today, and she politely replies, "Nothing new dear."  We ask her if she took her medication, and she confirms.  With all we have going on— with all our "busy-ness"—we convince ourselves that small talk is all we can handle.

When will we ask about her journey through the ocean?  When will we ask who hurt her so deeply that the drop of a name causes her to weep?  When will we ask about her favorite dance partner?  When will we ask why she feels peace when cooking chicken and dumplings? When will we ask what she fears the most?

The stories that answer these questions formed your mother into the "extra"-ordinary person she is today.  Sometimes your mother wrestled with life.  Sometimes your mother danced.  Life twisted and turned your mother as it refined, polished, and perfected her.  Then, suddenly, life spit its gem onto your seashore.

So, what will you do with the gem?  Will you discard the memories of the events that sculpted your mother into who she is today?  Or, will you transform her stories into your family’s extraordinary, ordinary heirloom?

Be the one who asked,
before it's too late.
- Michelle Beckman

Be the one who asked…before it's too late.

What questions would you like your mother (or another loved one) to answer before it is too late?  What life lessons has she learned that can help you and your children navigate life's waters? If you can’t stop thinking about the questions for which you do not yet have answers, let's chat and see if I can help you know your own mother more deeply before it’s too late.

1 For more information about sea glass jewelry and ornaments, please contact Catherine Smith at Jersey Cape Sea Glass via email

2 Brokaw, Tom. "Introduction." Introduction. The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections. New York: Random House, 1999. XX-XXII. Print.

Share your stories often. Save your life story forever. You won't regret it.


This publication is based upon personal experience, research, and education. Although the author has made every reasonable attempt to achieve complete accuracy of the content in this article, the author and Sunday Dinner Stories assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or inaccurate information. For privacy reasons, some names may have been changed or omitted. The content is not intended to replace common sense, legal, medical, or other professional advice; it is meant to encourage, inspire, educate, and inform the reader. That means you should consult with your attorney, doctors, and other professionals if you have any concern about implementing our advice. But we hope you'll consider us your memoir professionals and will consult us for all your storytelling needs!


© 2021 Michelle Beckman, Sunday Dinner Stories, All rights reserved internationally.
Please contact us to request permission to use our article.