When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at COSI. My mom's office was just around the corner, so my sister and I would often spend the entire day wandering around. We would watch the rats play basketball; meander through Yesteryear, the old-time city; and rush to be first in line to place our hand on the static electricity generator, which makes your hair stand straight up. Often during the summer there would be themed workshops which I would eagerly attend. The themes were all science-related in some way, but always very fun to attend. One was about physics; another about optical illusions; another about chemistry (in which I unwittingly swallowed a cup full of salt water – yuck!). In 1985 one workshop was about time, called “It’s About Time”.
In this workshop we constucted a time capsule. It was simply an opaque plastic container, with the words DO NOT OPEN UNTIL AUGUST 2005 written in black permanent marker on the lid. We were instructed to take the time capsule home, and put some stuff in it that we felt was representative of who we were at the time. I clearly remember putting in some seashells from Jones Beach in New York. I clearly recall putting in a G.I. Joe action figure, and a Smurf figure. Alas, I do not remember which figures they were. To my embarrassment, I also clearly remember removing both of those figures several weeks later so that I could play with them again.
After that, the lid stayed on. Twenty years seemed an eternity to me. The little plastic container stayed with me through six different residences through college and beyond. I always placed it some place very visible, as a constant reminder that some day I would open it and be filled with memories. Whenever I would pick up the container, I could hear the seashells clicking against one another inside. What else may in there, I’d long since forgotten.
So now it’s August, 2005, twenty years after I closed the lid for the last time. Bursting with curiosity the other night, I carefully took the container down from the bookshelf. I sat on the couch, with the white plastic container in my lap, and opened it.
Inside was a pile of seashells and a coupon for one free admission to COSI.
At first, I was disappointed with my eleven year old self for not putting more stuff inside. But as I sat gazing at the shells, I recalled for the first time in a very long time some of our family trips to New York to visit my dad’s parents. On one such trip we went to Jones Beach, the beach at which I collected the shells now in the container in my lap. There were crab shells all over, and I was truly enjoying picking them up, and marvelling at their delicate beauty. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, one shell was still occupied. I scooped it up, thrilled to get a wholly intact shell, and stood up to show my grandmother who was lounging a few feet away. To my surprise – and horror – the crab pinched my thumb! I shrieked, and flailed my hand until the crab let go and went flying through the air. I remembered the look of surprised delight in my grandmother’s eyes, and the laugh we all shared after I calmed down.
On another trip, we went to the beach at night, after sunset. I forget why. The beach was covered with jellyfish. You could barely approach the gently beating surf, there were so many jellyfish. Big ones, small ones, lumpy ones. They glimmered and glistened eeriely from the surrounding lights. I was awestruck, seeing so many of them. My dad scooped up a few of them into a mason jar. I can’t fathom why dad was carrying a mason jar, so perhaps we went to the beach with the express purpose of collecting jellyfish. We went back to my grandmother’s house, and the joke for the remainder of our stay was that we were going to make jelly donughts, using jellyfish instead of jelly.
So to my eleven year old self from twenty years ago: thanks for thinking ahead. Thanks for thinking about me.