by Madeline Laughs
When I was very young, say around 5 years old, my grandfather built a sandbox under the huge live oak trees for me to play in. I thought this sandbox was truly magical and spent most of my summer afternoons in it building sand castles and sand forts and sand stuff.
One afternoon a cousin came to play with me. She and I were the same age. We decided to spend our playtime in the new sandbox.
“Did you know that if we fill the hats from the acorns with sand and line them up that they will turn into circus animals?” my cousin says to me. I looked at her suspiciously. No, I did not know this, but should I let her know that I did not know this? Would she think I was stupid for not knowing this? After all, I have a sandbox and wouldn’t it be my responsibility to know something this awesome?
“Let’s fill up a buncha them!” I decided to just go with enthusiasm.
We busied ourselves collecting acorn hats in the scoops of our tshirt tails. To make a scoop you lift up the bottom of the front and voila! it’s a handy dandy sling for carrying treasured objects such as acorn hats.
When we had enough to get started, we dumped out our acorn booty and started filling each one with sand.
I searched around the sandbox until I found one of my best sand shovels. Then I carefully filled a sand bucket with sand and made sure to sift out any odd debris or lumps. When the bucket was full, I reached down deep into the bottom and felt around with my fingers, just to make sure there were no lumps or odd things. When I felt the sand was pristine, I carefully checked each of my acorn hats to make sure none of them had any cracks or parts missing. I wanted perfectly shaped hats before I started filling them with sand and lining them up in straight rows.
My cousin had just dumped her acorn hats and started filling them with sand by hand. She was humming a happy song while she worked.
I started filling my acorn hats carefully with the shovel and lined them up in perfect rows making sure none of them touched each other. I was a little nervous that if they touched each other when they magically became circus animals, that they might merge into something heinous and scary, like a rhinokey, a combination of a Rhinocerus and a monkey.
In my head I played out a scenario of how my mornings would go when I would have to feed all of my new pets. If my grandmother served me oatmeal for breakfast I could definitely share that with a zebra!
“How do we know which acorn hat will be which animal?” I asked her. She sat up and gave this some thought. “You don’t.” she said. What did she mean by that? We don’t even know which animals we were making?! What if I ended up with a yard full of hippos?! That definitely would not make me happy!
She went back to filling her acorn hats. Her army of acorn hats, brimming with sand, looked quite impressive compared to the paltry few I had carefully filled and lined up in perfect rows. Try as I might, I just could not bring myself to mimic her haphazard methods, so I continued doing mine, my way.
“Some of your acorn hats have holes and cracks in them.” I warned my cousin. She picked up one that was missing a huge chunk and surveyed the damage. Then she set it back down with the rest of them and kept working. “It’s okay” she said “That just means some of the animals will just be missing a leg or two.”
WHAT?! MISSING A LEG?! OR TWO?!
Visions of a three legged giraffe filled my head and I became very apprehensive about this new development. How in the world would I be able to take care of a three legged giraffe? Would they be able to stand up on their own or would they need to use a cane?
I didn’t like this, but I said nothing about my fears to my cousin. We were having such a nice visit and I didn’t want to ruin the fun by being a crybaby. She seemed to not mind at all that some of them would be missing a leg. Or two. I watched her for a few minutes as she continued filling her acorn hats, whether they were in perfect condition, or not.
I decided that later, after she went home, I would come back out and gather the damaged ones before the sun set, so they wouldn’t be born as three legged giraffes.
“Oh look!” she cried “This one is huge! It will be an elephant!”
AN ELEPHANT! This made me grin! I love elephants! I wanted a herd of them for sure! I surveyed the size of her acorn hat and then pilfered through my own to see if I had one that was just as big. I didn’t.
But wait a minute! “You said we wouldn’t know which acorn hats would be which animal” I reminded her. She shook her head and laughed a little “But this one would have to be an elephant because the elephant is the biggest circus animal and this is the biggest acorn hat.” That made perfect sense to both of us!
I dropped my shovel and started searching the ground for the biggest acorn hats I could find. They were not abundant. In fact, I think she had probably found the only one in the whole yard! I meandered down the hill hoping that perhaps one had rolled far away from the tree when it fell, but still found nothing.
I resigned myself to the fact that there would probably only be one elephant in the whole bunch and climbed the hill to finish filling my acorn hats.
Soon we were called inside to wash up for dinner.
Both us us stood up to admire our handiwork. It had taken us hours to fill hundreds of acorn hats with sand and tomorrow the circus was coming to town right here in my front yard! I was super excited!
After dinner I fell asleep on the sofa watching cartoons. My cousin’s mom came to pick her up while I slept and I dreamed of the new animals I would get to love in the morning. I completely forgot about gathering the odd and broken acorn hats before they could hatch into creatures missing limbs and parts.
In fact, I completely forgot that the next morning I would see the magical circus animals at all. I ate my cereal and wrapped my scarf around my neck as I followed my grandmother to the car to be dropped off at kindergarten class.
I never even glanced out of the car window as we rounded the bend in the circular driveway that passed right by the sandbox.
The fanciful sand filled acorn hats never even crossed my 5 year old mind as I attended school all that week. I was busy thinking about how to draw the letter K and being grossed out that some of my school chums like to eat PlayDoh.
It was September and the evenings were cooler, so playing in my sandbox was not as much fun as staying indoors and reading one of my new books. So the sand filled acorn hats sat, unattended and forgotten, for more mature projects all throughout the winter that year.
It wasn’t until springtime that I made the trek out to the sandbox to get it prepared for playdates in the warmer weather. That’s when I rediscovered the lines of carefully placed acorn hats again.
I remember standing there and wondering what had happened. I remember wondering how I could have forgotten something this important. Could it be that the magic had not happened because I had put them out of my mind and not remembered them enough for the magic to take place like it was supposed to?
But like any young child, I shrugged it off and scooped the weathered acorn hats up into my bucket and dumped them back in the yard.
Do you ever wonder if the magic doesn’t happen because you forget about the things that set it into motion?
Do you ever wonder that if you just thought about it properly, that magic would occur, just like it tells you it will?