When I was a kid, I believed a few things were true.
- The basement was definitely haunted. (The adult me isn’t convinced it isn’t.)
- I was definitely going to become an actress/gymnast/writer/teacher/superstar puppy (I’m a writer and my Mom thinks I’m a superstar. Two out of three, right?)
- That I could turn dirt into sand.
Picture it: the late 1980's.
We were digging in the dirt, sifting it through and making it sand. Not realizing that in landlocked West Virginia, sand was as much of a dream as ocean skylines and Mickey Mouse. We filled up one bucket, sift the stones and debris out and then fill another bucket.
Trying to build sand castles in the still air.
It was me and my three neighbor friends. They’d move within the next couple of years, but we didn’t know that then.
We just knew that we were friends now. And we were trying to make sand. The boys had their Matchbox cars, making vroom vroom sounds, irritating the life out of me and the other girls.
“Boys are so immature,” I muttered under my breath. Their sisters nodded in agreement.
We worked in silence, building trenches. Trying to make castles, but they tumbled down quickly. We tried again. And again. Stopping occasionally to get plastic tumblers of Kool Aid.
I didn’t realize the futility of putting dirt in a bucket and trying to create something new. I didn’t realize we weren’t able to create sand. That our tiny hands packing down that dirt so earnestly with me flinching every so often at the bark of the dogs.
As an adult it’s dawned on me.
When we were building those “sand” castles, it didn’t matter that it was dirt.
It didn’t matter that we were hundreds of miles from the ocean.
What counted was we imagined something that we wanted and tried to execute to the best of our abilities. We were dreamers in a dry, hot summer pretending the grass was our ocean and life hadn’t told us yet that it wasn’t. We were making something happen.
We were builders.
And we weren’t driving our Moms crazy for a few hours.
It was brilliant for their Mom to give us those buckets and shovels. They must’ve been leftover from when they were toddlers. By giving us those tools for inspiration and creativity, we were occupied for hours. We barely even argued and we didn’t go bother our Moms asking them to play referee in an argument.
Sometimes it’s not about the most expensive game or complicated activity. It’s just activating the imagination.