“And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning – fresh as if issued to children on a beach.” –Mrs. Dalloway
He lost his shovel. It was bright blue, plastic, purchased at a hardware store on the way to the beach for the sole purpose of digging in that sand on that day. He discovered quickly the way that sand works. The way it sneaks in between your toes. The way it covers your feet if you tilt them just right, allowing you to sink in deep enough to almost lose your balance. He discovers that it moves, that it hides treasures, that shovels can fit all the way under if you push at them just right.
He pushed the blue shovel into the wet sand until he couldn’t see it any more.
“Where’s the shovel, Mom?” He asked, looking up with a joking grin on his face.
“I don’t know,” I said.
And then he dug down with his little hands, hands still dimpled in the way that toddler hands are, and he revealed his hidden shovel.
“Here it is!” He bragged. It was shovel hide and seek.
Until it was gone. Until he buried it and then forgot in the vastness of the sand exactly where it was. It was in a puddle. Maybe near the middle. I searched with him, burying my foot down in lines as straight as a beach allows, covering the whole puddle with my search. But it was gone.
He didn’t really mourn its loss. He ran and ran and ran and made the water in the pool ripple as his legs and feet passed through it. As the tide changed around him, as the pool shrunk to a puddle. He ran back and forth and back and forth and he never got bored.
When she was one she was at the beach. She doesn’t remember, but I do. She was so small on that huge expanse, on that beach that can’t help but remind me how small I am in all of this. She will remember this time. She will remember the sound of the waves crashing and the way her heart would race as each cold bit of water made its way closer and closer to her ankles, the way her father lifted her above each one in a game they played at the water’s edge.
She’ll remember the sand. They way it stuck to her even as the water dried. They was it was shaped like tiny waves as the tide moved out. The way she could create.
She made castles out of overturned buckets of sand. She dug a moat with a garden shovel playing a different role for the day. And then she had a big idea. The puddle and the castle should connect.
Her dad and I helped for a while. We started to dig a channel across the beach – the castle was not close to the puddle – with buckets and shovels and feet and hands use as tools to move sand, we tried to help. The water would start to flow and she’d squeal in excitement. We can do it, she’d assert. She was sure.
The adults gave up. It was too much work. The castle was too far away. The water was just sinking back into the sand anyway. But she kept on. Determined.
I watched, admiring her perseverance. She switched tools, went back to perfect. Enlisted her brother’s help when he finally quit running back and forth. The world was hers to mold for the first time in her memory. She could create rivers and channels and streams, choose their path, their depth, their origin.
“I’ve never worked so hard on anything!” she said, proud of her own determined spirit even after we told her it was time to go.