Friday, July 6, 2012

The Sandbox

(In memory of Garth Foster and Cecil McDonald)

 New sandbox!   June 1993

The heavy red dump truck lumbered slowly passed our place, headed west down the back road. Some time later, it rolled back eastward and came to a stop in our driveway. It was the spring of 1993 and our third child had been born just weeks before.

The driver, old Mr. Foster, climbed down and asked my husband, Brent, “Where’s your sandbox?”

“Ummm, we don’t have one,” said Brent, standing in a clutter of building materials, toys, lawn chairs, weeds and a little bit of hardy lawn.

“Well every kid needs a sandbox,” he replied, and he got back into his truck and pulled away.

Now, we were used to Mr. Foster making his rounds of our rural neighbourhood; never nosy but always watchful. He’d let us know about the flooding situation, run-away dogs, parties at the bridge, the local weather. He was the unofficial guardian of the section in which we lived.

But we never knew about his humour or his heart.

He returned with his truck full of sand and asked, “Where should I dump this?”

“Uhhh, how about right there,” said Brent as he pointed to a spot smack dab in the middle of the yard.

So the dump truck was backed across the grass and the weeds, carefully steered between two scrub oaks, the box was tilted up and out poured a load of beautiful clean sand, just for our kids.

No charge. No choice. No questions asked.

And Mr. Foster said to my flabbergasted husband, “Tell your old man that I gave his grandkids this sandbox.” He laughed and strolled away and we knew we were involved in some sort of friendly, but lifelong, rivalry between the two men!

Brent quickly surrounded the pile with some old railway ties and unused lumber and the kids jumped right in! Castles, roads, moats, hills and valleys were formed. Miniature versions of Mr. Foster’s trucks hauled rocks and bugs. Sandy mud pies were decorated with dandelions and clover, and baked on a broken down old hotplate. Super heroes battled Barbie dolls. Gritty textures were explored in our toddler’s fingers and mouth. Solitary digging provided time for peaceful boredom and creativity.

Sittin' and thinkin'.

As the kids grew, I suggested we remove the sandbox. The wooden edgings had long since rotted away and the occasional lost toy surfaced from the depths. Weeds and ants had begun to take over and the only soul enjoying the sand was our dog Dilly, digging cool holes in it on hot summer days.

But our kids cried out, “No! Not the sandbox! You can’t get rid of the sandbox! It’s always been there! It’s our childhood!”

So the sandbox was left alone.

Shaking the sand out.

The old rivals have both passed on now.

Our sandbox is slowly disappearing too.

Gentle departures.

Loving memories of lives well lived.

©Conni Cartlidge, 2012

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