Tales From The Park: How Sea Glass & Movie Stars Came Together at the Dollar Store
January 6, 2019
I wrote this in 2017, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It's the closest I'll ever come to meeting a celebrity (or at least a man who should be), I think...
A couple days ago, after depositing yet another handful of sea glass I had collected from the beach during an afternoon wander into a giant container on a shelf in the living room, I decided maybe it was time to try to do something with all of these tumbled treasures. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. But, there was all this glass. Beckoning.
So I started googling.
I found an idea that looked both pretty and achievable. And, unlike the last time I tried to create something from nothing (yes, the dreaded make-your-own red glitter flats debacle) this project required neither heat, nor glue, nor any kind of actual skill or artistic ability. And glitter was optional (though really, when does glitter NOT improve a thing?).
This one was really all about assembly…which, I figured, I could probably do. So, today, I headed to the local Dollar Store to gather the rest of my supplies, with a dream (and some dollars) in hand.
I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy. And as I stood there in the aisle where they keep the candles, kitchen towels, and colored glass marbles, perplexed by how I might still make this work (since what I really needed wasn’t there) - I suddenly felt the gentle nudge of a push cart meeting the side of my right hip.
I looked up to see a sweet, frail, older man in a lightweight camel-colored jacket, maybe a size too big, crouched over and leaning on his arms, his whole upper body supported by the front of his shopping cart.
He wore the most giant smile I think I’ve ever seen.
"I’m Robert!", he said.
"Well hello, Robert!", I replied back, holding a bag of assorted sea-colored marbles, smiling in spite of myself. It was just impossible not to be anything but lightened by his incredibly dear demeanor and his warm greeting. I mean, it was odd too of course - you don’t expect such things to happen while shopping for marbles. But people talk to me. A lot. So, I guess I’ve gotten kind of used to it.
"DE-NIRO!", he said, with a giggle, his smile now ever wider. I looked again, more closely this time, right into his face.
And he was right.
"My god, you DO look like DeNiro! You do!”, I said, amazed.
“I know, right? I get that all the time! Do you like crafts?"
"Umm…well, not exactly. I mean I thought I might try to make something, so I came here to see if I could find some stuff, but they don’t really have what I was supposed to get so I’m trying to figure out what to do instead. I guess I’m a little overwhelmed cause I’m not very good at any of this. Do you, Robert, do you like, I mean, do you do crafts too?’
"I do!", he said, earnestly. “I do like crafts. Very much. And those marbles, they’re pretty!”
“You think so?”, I asked him. I figured, the way my world has been working lately, who’s to say some angel from up above (I seem to have a few of them up there now) didn’t send DeNiro himself into the Dollar Store to guide me through my project. His advice was better than no advice, so I continued.
“Which do you like better?”, I asked…holding up one bag of marbles that was all a deep royal blue and another that was a collection of green, clear, turquoise, and this very pretty aqua-marine-y kind of sea foam color.
‘Hmm…”, he said, looking at the bags in my hands very thoughtfully, giving careful consideration to his answer. He rolled the small bags of marbles over to make sure there was nothing pretty on one side versus the other that he might have missed. And then he said, holding up the multi-colored bag, "These. Get these. So many pretty colors. I’m going to get a bag too, just the same, for my crafts."
His smile was still present, only now it was also invested. Invested in me, in this conversation, in the marbles. In the connection too, I think. He leaned further down off his cart and started trying to find another bag of multi-colored marbles.
“Oh no…", he said softly.
"I think maybe…well, I don’t see another bag like yours. Maybe that was the last one.”, his voice trailing off as he pulled out bag after bag of all blue marbles. I started looking again, too.
And there it was. One more bag of multi-colored marbles.
“I found one! Here you go! Now we both have a bag. We both have the pretty marbles in all the colors!”, I said, and I held up that one last magic bag, then placed it into his hands.
He smiled. Again. And dropped it into his little cart. Alongside the bar of soap. The socks. And a few other small items I hadn’t looked closely enough to identify. Soap, socks, and a pretty bag of shiny multi-colored marbles.
"Okay, well….wish me luck, Robert”, I said. “I’m definitely gonna need it! And good luck to you too on your crafts. It’s been a joy meeting you today, and thank you for your help.”
Mr. DeNiro looked back up at me, still smiling, once again leaning over his cart, and said simply…"Thank you. Goodbye my dear.”
I started walking away. I looked back, and he too had continued on, pushing his cart down the aisle.
I finished gathering the rest of my things and headed to the checkout. As I finished paying and turned to leave, I looked back one last time, and there, in line, was Robert.
“Goodbye, Robert! Good luck!”, I called.
He looked at me. And smiled. Beamed, really. Then raised his hand, and waved a small goodbye.
It was lovely.
All of it.
And all I went in for was marbles.
So….goodbye 2016. Here’s to a new year. One filled with love, and open hearts, and tolerance, and joy. To telling our stories, and listening to the stories others have to tell - without judgement, with compassion. To being willing to meet new friends and get advice in unexpected places.
To find magic amongst the marbles.
Here’s a picture of what I made (you could too, I promise). Alongside one of my favorite seagull prints that I bought at the local artisans guild here in town. My glass thing is not so bad, and beautiful to me if for no other reason then these will always remind me of the day I met Robert DeNiro.