Pearls from the Red Lobster Sea
by L. Flamehawk
While working our ways through college, my first husband worked at Red Lobster. He trained his way through nearly every position, from kitchen prep to waiting tables. But it was the bar tending that yielded so much more than just the usual tips. Back then Red Lobster's bartenders made all the usual drinks and maintained the restaurant's oyster bar. Ever aware of how oysters on the half shell are eaten,the restaurant staff took the greatest possible care to ensure that the oysters that were served weren't loaded with natural pearl choking hazards.
Even though the pearl-finding at that particular Red Lobster was not an everyday occurrence, there was an informal contest each quarter to see who found the most pearls. Often months would go by without any pearl discoveries.But it occurred often enough for my husband-to-be to jokingly referred to his bar tending shifts as "pearl diving the Red Lobster Sea". He teased that he would gather pearls until he had enough to pay off my diamond ring. But, in truth, he had gathered the pearls for me. None have ever been sold.
As a card carrying member of the "Artsy" set, I have always collected many natural and found objects. So I adored the pearls and the shells my husband-to-be gave me. Likewise, my cats loved the seafood tid bits he regularly brought home from work. To my cats delight, an iodine allergy has put seafood perpetually off my menu leaving all ocean fare leftovers for the felines.I doubt I will ever have the startling thrill of finding a pearl in my mouth, on a half shell or on my plate while dining.
I have however found a few Concho pearls along the river in San Angelo. But I have not yet been to the ocean, not even the Gulf.
He gave me more than a dozen pearls gathered from the Red Lobster Sea across almost five years of working and attending university classes full time. A few were blister pearls but most were free from the shell.
Even though their sheen was not as brightly elegant as other types of more valuable pearls, they are a perfect natural manifestation of one of Life's most important lessons. The pearl always reminds me that no matter what irritations or injuries I encounter they can be transformed into something of extraordinary beauty, into something worthy of being treasured. The pearls gave me the message of transformation but that was not their only gift. Each pearl renewed my awareness that I was not and would not be alone again.
When the wedding bells rang for us, I wore a necklace of pearls, but not one made of those pearls. I could not bring myself to poke holes in the original pearls he gave me. At the wedding I carried them like seeds waiting to be planted, nestled in a tiny borrowed blue silk bag.
Our rehearsal dinner was at Red Lobster, of course, but no pearls were discovered during the meal. For me the pearls that came from the food oysters also became a symbol of the spiritual nourishment that is available to us if we are willing to open up the hard shell that has been created to protect ourselves in human society. I still marvel at the Beauty That Is Pearl. It is more than just a symbol. I think it is a sort of manifest Truth that has much to teach us if we are willing to learn. It was perhaps the most humble of the pearls that taught me so much.I can not express such worth in mere dollar signs.
Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of them to share with you. Most of the things that I once had are no more. But I have the wisdom and the romance of the pearls within me always and I string them into many of my jewelry designs and they feature in several of my artworks. He is no longer with me. But that loss too has been transformed into the family I now treasure. Some pearls are indeed priceless.