Every now and then, a reminder of my strong affinity for the principle of sacramentality – the idea that all of reality can be the bearer of God’s presence or action – affirms how irrevocably Catholic I am. Beyond the official seven sacraments, the mystery of God can be discovered through the finite, the everyday. These might be events in your own life or the larger world, or objects, rituals, symbols, or all of creation. This week I’ve been savoring memories of our children’s sandbox, recollecting it as a kind of sacred space for us. especially during their toddler years. The sandbox was a gift from my husband’s parents, delivered with bags of sand and a set of toys one summer evening when Michael was nearly 18 months old and I was six months pregnant with Kieran. My sister-in-law and Joe set it up in the shade of the cottonwood tree and there it remained for the next ten years that we lived there.
I’m sure that the children squabbled over buckets and invaded each other’s space in the sandbox, but overall I associate it with peacefulness. In my mind’s eye, I see each of them in turn, filling a bucket with sand, shovel by shovel, crooning wordless toddler tunes, or moving trucks up and down slopes or pouring sand back and forth from one cup to the other. These interludes allowed me to glance through a magazine, sipping a second cup of coffee, a welcome break in the day. But I also remember just quietly observing, breathing in the beauty of moments I knew even then would be fleeting, remembering to feel grateful no matter how tired I felt.
Although we weren’t quite ready to shed the sand box when we moved to our present home, it never got a lot of use here. It has been languishing for some time now, forgotten and dirty, tucked in a corner of the back yard. But on a recent warm afternoon nearly 20 years after its arrival in our family, Joe and I dumped out the old sand, scrubbed the bottom and top, and washed the toys that were salvageable. After a stop at Lowe’s for bags of play sand, we were delighted to bequeath everything to a second cousin’s family; they have a two-year-old and are expecting their second child in the coming weeks. A couple days later the young dad texted me a photo of his son ensconced in the sand box, with the caption, “He’s very happy!” So are we.