Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Well, fourteen and a half years ago, when we moved into our new house, our five boys were 11, 9, 7, 4 and 2 years old. The younger part of the crew requested a sandbox in the backyard. Not being one to go out and buy some flimsy metal contraption that would rust away before the next summer, I reacted with overkill to produce the kind of sandbox I would have wanted as a kid. It took me a while but I finally created a 10' x 10' monstrosity. It had two layers of 6"x6" treated lumber to form the frame, bench seats on the corners, and probably two cubic yards of fine sand I lugged in bags from the hardware store over the several trips I made to find the right stuff to build it. And it wasn't going anywhere. The boards were held together with 6" countersunk lag bolts and the whole thing was anchored to the ground at the corners with pieces of 2 foot re-bar that were pounded home with a sledgehammer.
Now that's a sandbox.
Our boys spent a lot of hours playing in that thing. They built castles using Tonka trucks and bulldozers. They conducted full scale war re-enactments in that sand complete with tanks and plastic men shooting from tactically advantageous positions. They threw sand at each other. In fact, experts estimate that close to one cubic yard of that sand found its way back into our house over the ensuing 14 years.
But the sandbox days are over. Over the last several years, the sand became a breeding ground for those thick, spiny weeds that viciously attack you if you try to pull them. Rusted trucks found their way to the garbage. The wood was dried and cracked. The sandbox became nothing but an eyesore that made mowing the backyard more difficult than it really needed to be. I just couldn't bring myself to do anything about it. When Hank, our beloved golden retriever and The World's Best Dog, died a few years back, we planted a willow tree to remember him ... right there next to the sandbox.
The willow is getting bigger but the sandbox is just getting more overgrown.
So, this summer I had to cave to reality. We chopped the boards and pried rusted re-bar from the ground. Our sandbox frame became a funeral pyre for nasty weeds and plastic toys. Yesterday I lugged bags of topsoil to cover the dirty sand and, as I was raking it smooth and level, a few buried army men found their way to the surface begging for one more day in the imagination of a little boy.
I saved the army men.
And so a square of dry hay now covers the place where the sandbox used to be. Our water bill will be a little higher until the grass sprouts and, eventually, the yard will be easier to mow. But the sandbox won't be gone.
I was too lazy to replant the area the way I probably should have. I just left the sand where it was and covered it with a few inches of topsoil. My guess is that that square in our backyard where the sandbox used to be will always be a little soft and get mushy when it rains. The grass may grow a little differently in that square next to Hank's tree. Most people probably won't notice but we will. If you know where to look, you will always be able to see the outline of the place where five carefree little boys just played with army men.
That's my plan, anyway.