By Edward McLaughlin
Photography by Cheryl Kirby, Sculpture by Ed & Susan McLaughlin

It was a simple request that began with “Do you think you can…?” Our son Michael and his fiancée Marisa are planning their wedding. Although they live in League City, Texas now, they plan on coming home to Toms River, New Jersey get married on July 26th and celebrate with friends and family. They decided on a beach theme and asked if my wife, Susan, and I could create a centerpiece for their reception. Marisa requested the word “Love” be represented in a seashell motif and be a specific size. Susan and I agreed on a particular font that we thought appropriate and proceeded to cut the letters out of plywood.

So there we were with four large wooden letters. Now all we needed were shells to cover them. How big? How many? What color? What shape? We did what any retired couple would do and searched Google. After viewing an endless variety of shell encrusted LOVE letters, we remained stumped.

Our son Brian, who runs the irrigation department for Reynolds Landscaping, suggested visiting Things A Drift. We drove from Barnegat over to Ship Bottom and met with Cheryl Kirby, owner of the unique store. We explained that our woodworking skills far exceeded our shell creativity and needed help. Cheryl enthusiastically offered up suggestions of shell varieties and shared some professional secret techniques.

We left the shop with several bags of shells and great advice on how to complete the project. After clearing off the dining room table, we began a labor of love, and proceeded to create the centerpiece. We followed Cheryl’s mantra, “The shells will tell you where to place them.”

As the shells directed us, we began to see an amazing change. Our simple wooden letters became a true symbol of love that we hope will bring Michael and Marisa happiness in their new adventure. Just as the shells led us, love will steer the newlyweds on their lifelong journey.

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