Today I spent most of the day outside, which makes it the best kind of day in my book! The weather was mild enough for gardening, so I worked on a project that I have needed to conquer for years--pulling the wire grass out of my children's old sandbox. I was feeling quite sentimental while doing that today. I was envisioning Finn when we built it for him, as a birthday present. He was 3. He loved flags, and so my husband included a flower bed to the side with a flagpole centered in the middle. Finn sat and played in that sandbox for hours, and ran the flag up and down the pole dozens of times. While I was pregnant with Annie and constantly nauseated, I remember him sitting there playing happily while I sat, open and unread book on my lap, and tried to just stare at one thing in order to fight the nausea. Later, when she was a toddler, they would play in the sandbox together. That's where they learned certain rules of etiquette, like: don't throw sand. And share your toys!
A little while later, my husband decided to build a play set for our children. He designed it himself. Two swings, one slide, and a very cool "clubhouse" that was centered over the sandbox. Slowly, the sandbox fell out of favor because the swings and slide and clubhouse above were so appealing. Slowly, I allowed the wire grass to invade it, thinking I'll get around to pulling the weeds sometime....
That time was finally today. Now the sandbox is actually a sandbox again; there was plenty of sand beneath all that grass! It's cleared-out. While I was working I thought I would add some soil and plant grape hyacinths in it. Then I pondered grape hyacinths and Siberian irises. Then I considered lavender. Now that it's all cleaned out, though, I have to say I feel so sentimental. It's a sandbox again. It's the same sandbox, the same sand, where my children sat and played, their tiny little voices chattering and giggling. Looking at it gives me a pang of sentimentality that I didn't expect. I don't know: am I ready to say goodbye to that sandbox? Am I ready to plant it with flowers and usher it into a new role in our lives?
Finn turns 14 in a few months. It has been 11 years since he was that little 3 year old, enchanted by a flagpole and driving his trucks through his sandbox. In less than 2 years he will be allowed to drive a car. I remember when he turned 5, I cried because he seemed so old! 5 was the age a child went to school! I try not to think too hard about the passage of time because it is so bittersweet. My children are supposed to grow up. I want them to grow up! And yet, when I stop to think about it, or to look at the sand in that sandbox, my heart cracks just a little bit. Sometimes it cracks a lot.
When Finn turned 10 I made a video collage of photos for him set to music--Dar Williams' song "The One Who Knows." He and I sat and watched it and cried our eyes out. (Annie and my husband laughed at us.) But oh, this song makes me cry.
Sometimes I will ask the moon
where it shined up you last
and shake my head and laugh and say
it all went by so fast.
I have tried hard over the years to be present for and with my children. I mean, I homeschool them! I'm with them pretty much all the time! I've tried to observe them, to pause and enjoy little moments every day, to treasure up the tiny things (like how I am sitting right now watching Annie engrossed in a book, so intently reading, and so expressive--something big must be happening! Oh, now she's laughing...it must be something funny...). Even so, the truth is--it all goes by so fast.
What shall I plant in that sandbox? Or should I even try to replace it with anything?
Because right now it just holds my memories, and they are so precious to me.