One summer, my family was down at the Jersey shore during Mom’s birthday. My brother and I, ever indecisive, had not purchased a present beforehand. We scoured the boardwalk last minute, looking for Mom’s “perfect” gift. A stuffed animal won at a game of chance? A week’s supply of funnel cake? We entered one of those higher-end beachy décor stores, our last hope, and finally settled on the best we could do—a giant-ass seashell. To my Mom’s credit, she acted like she loved it, and that shell still holds a place of honor to this day on top of the toilet tank in the hall bathroom.

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