Poems & Essays

15 Oct

Lessons From a Sandbox

General/Column No Response

I sip a late-morning coffee and watch from the kitchen window. A purple knitted hat tied under her chin covers the lush aureate streaks of her hair as she sits in the backyard sandbox. Matching mittens lie on the dead grass surrounding her. She hates mittens and rarely keeps them on. In spite of the cold air, she takes a pail full of water and dumps it over last summer’s sand, already hardened, defiant. Even with little mud, she is eager and determined to make mud pies.

I study her as though she is priceless art, and I watch the ever-changing contours of her being. She is my heart, my do-over, the chance to live in a different light. Her small body moves with a rushed fluidity and purpose. There is fun to create, a lovely and lively childhood to be had.

I am awed by her perseverance. Wind is whipping tendrils of hair loose from her hat, tickling her eyes and criss-crossing her cheeks. She brushes the hair away without irritation. She picks up one of her mittens and wipes the liquid running from her nose. Now she can continue her mission. The weather will not beat her, nor dampen her resolve.

Turning, she smiles at me in the window and wordlessly beseeches me to stay, to keep watching her. She cannot know that leaving her would be leaving the essence of who I am. I belong to her, as I belong in this window at this moment to watch and learn all that she will teach. Through her I have come to understand that I do not fear being alone. I fear instead being invisible, not seen or heard, not having someone know who I am.

A calico cat has entered the yard and heads toward where she sits. Our yard sits at the edge of deep woods and I worry. The cat could as easily be a coyote, a fox, a bear.  Opening her arms, she welcomes the cat into her sandbox. It is more than innocence which enables her to pet and stroke this foreign animal, laughing as she does – it is undiluted joy, an invitation to experience such.  I once heard we are at our strongest when we lay our weapons down. Looking out my window, I know this is true.

She gets up quickly, too quickly, and trips on the sandbox edge. She falls face-first onto the stiff ground, not moving for a moment, then crying and running to me, her legs scurrying to tell me of her pain. I wipe her tears, kiss her hurt, and ask what now? She wants to return to her sandbox. There is work to be done, pies to be made, the hurt already behind her. She runs with exuberant speed back to the place she loves. Her resilience soothes me, telling me she will survive even when I am not in the window watching.

They say we must teach our children and grandchildren well. I think, often as much, sometimes more, they inform us. Maybe what they tell is not a first-time lesson but rather a gentle reminder of what we once knew, what, through life, milestones, challenge, and complacency, we somehow lost sight of.

As I sip my coffee and look toward the sandbox, I nod a thank-you to this little girl of lush brown hair and effervescent eyes. She, my do-over, is showing me again about not quitting in spite of the odds, finding joy in simple things, being open to newness in people and life, and putting heartache in the past. Mostly, she is telling me to run toward what I love.




Maureen Dion studied journalism, worked for a few weekly newspapers, and has been writing for fun, passion, and as a catharsis for many years now. Along with her husband, she is currently raising their 11 year old granddaughter and find the task to be daunting yet joyful, overwhelming at times but rewarding. 

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