When Doodle was just a wee toddler, he liked to play in the sandbox. At our first home our sandbox was pretty small, and one small toddler took up most of the available space, so there wasn’t a lot of room to play. We moved when Doodle was about 4, and hubs built a much, much larger sandbox from some old railroad ties and about 80 million pounds of play sand. All three kids, then aged 4, 6, and 9 liked to frolic in the new, gi-normous sandbox. Heck, all told, I liked to take off my shoes and squish around in it, too.
Doodle was the biggest sandbox aficionado, however. He would play for hours in the sandbox, sifting it through his fingers, making rivers in it with a trickle from the hose, creating vast, enormous civilizations from wet sand. He’d bring in twigs as miniature trees, Matchbox cars to populate streets, and put tiny toothpick flags on buildings. Fabulous, just fabulous stuff. One summer we spent a lot of time outside with Spawn and Bunny splashing in our aboveground pool. I had gotten the plastic equivalent of a puddle for Doodle, since he couldn’t swim much yet, but he preferred to hang out in the sandbox instead. I would sit in the gazebo, planning new landscaping things or knitting or just enjoying a nice breeze from the overhead fan and keeping an eye on the kids.
One afternoon, Doodle was very, very quiet. As all moms know, this can be a warning sign – possible missing pet or flammable (or both) situations may result from children engaged in being quiet. I tried not to be a smothering mother and waited a little longer to see if he squeaked or coughed or something. Nothing. I edged quietly over to the sandbox side of the gazebo and peeked out. There sat Doodle, wearing sweatpants, calmly engaged in filling his pants with sand. His pants legs were bulging and trickling sand, and he had worked his way up to the lower torso area.
I opened my mouth to say something and then shut it. I thought about an episode of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” I had seen where some toddler had put a plastic bucket on his head and, quite happily, banged his bucket head into the wall for a half an hour or so, then gone on with his life. Nothing was damaged, whatever was going on in his rattled brain was being satisfied by that endeavor, and he wasn’t permanently, or even temporarily damaged by doing so. I figured that, while I, personally, might not enjoy the feeling of a pants load of sand, having endured a number of sandy drawers days at the beach during my childhood, the same did not hold true for Doodle. Perhaps the sand was cool and felt interesting. I firmly pushed thoughts of ants, earwigs, and other creepy-crawlies out of my mind.
I sat back down, eyed the kids in the pool, and drank some tea. After about 35 minutes of quiet, I spotted Doodle’s head moving slowly around the gazebo toward the entrance. He was moving with all the speed of a queasy snail, but onward he forged. He made it to the door and came in to show me, with great pride, the fact that he had filled his pants with sand! And then walked all that way (about 15 feet) to show me!
He stood there, wavering to and fro, trying to keep his balance amidst the shifting sands of his pants, grinning from ear to ear. I congratulated him on his accomplishment, and WHAMMO, Spawn and Bunny slammed into the gazebo to see what was going on, upsetting Doodle along the way. Down he went, heavily, due to the extra 3,000 lbs he was hauling along. “Whoooooo!” was the only thing he said for a minute.
“What’s wrong with Doodle?” asked Bunny, as she noticed him on the floor, waving his arms helplessly.
“He filled his pants with sand,” I said, “and they’re a little heavy.”
“Filled his pants with SAND?” hollered Spawn, “Oooh, that sounds cool! I’ll need to go change pants.” And off he went.
“Dry off first, or the sand will stick,” I called after him.
Doodle was still sitting on the floor of the gazebo. “Do you need some help,” I asked him, noticing he was struggling to get up and failing. “No” he replied, “I’ll just let some sand out,” and he pull open one pants leg and let a couple of pounds of sand out onto the floor. I eyed the mess. He spilled more sand from the other pants leg and got up. “Whoo,” he said, “that was fun!”
“You’ll need to brush up that sand and put it back in the sandbox,” I said.
“OK,” he replied, and did so, then commenced refilling his pants with sand all over again, this time sharing sand with Spawn.
Bunny looked at me. “Why did he fill his pants with sand,” she asked.
“I don’t know. You’ll need to ask him.” I answered.
Well, apparently the answer was sufficiently compelling because we spent the remainder of the summer with all three kids walking slowly around the backyard in sweatpants filled with sand in between dips in the pool. The charm wore off for the older ones after another summer, but Doodle continued filling his pants with sand for another three years, and introduced his friends to the joys of sandy pants as well. Parents would call me up and ask why I let them fill their pants with sand, even though I was careful to brush them off afterwards and offer to wash their pants for them. I told the parents that they chose to do so and seemed to enjoy it, and it seemed like harmless fun to me.
I think that finally a bug or something convinced Doodle that his era of sandypants was over, and different sandbox games followed. He spent two consecutive summers digging a hole, which he advised me was going to wind up in Indonesia. It got to the point where we’d have to help him out of the hole at the end of that day’s digging, and then it got to be too involved getting the sand out of the hole. It was really dirt by that time, but we have sandy soil anyway, so it seemed like the sandbox went on forever to him. He even included his “hole to Indonesia” in a timeline he did in grammar school. His written reason for stopping was “magma problems.”
The sandbox is a little weedy now, and we’ve decided to disassemble it since no one seems to play in it much any more. I think I’ll kind of miss it. It’s been a long time since I’ve played in one myself, and a couple of years since I’ve had the joy of watching kids play in the sandbox.
Some memories are good forever, though.