Sands of Time

Gravity and weather haven’t been kind to it.

Years of a life spent outdoors have taken their toll; sun-damaged boards warping just a bit more with each summer that comes and goes. Boards that smelled of the forest when we first brought them home now smell distinctly of mildew and rotten leaves.

The ladder is still sturdy enough to hold the five year-old boy it was built to support.

I wouldn’t recommend that same boy try to scale it now.

The sand inside is full of slugs and cobwebs, each rainy season bringing a few more. No mom with any common sense would let her toddler play anywhere near it now.

The hinges are rusted, and the heavy doors that cover the sand to keep the cats out (but apparently not the slugs) have warped together and are almost impossible to budge.

Scattered sand toys and plastic army men lie half-buried and cracked, long-forgotten playthings that don’t matter to anyone anymore.

Except for me.

There used to be a steering wheel up top; a place where a pirate captain could man his ship or a dump truck driver could shout directions to the workers below.

We decided my husband would build the sandbox/fort when our son was almost 5 years-old and our daughter was just a baby. It would be the perfect addition to our yard, which was already littered with enough Little Tikes toys to start a preschool.

Our son “helped” his dad build it, as much as a little boy can. It was finished just in time for his 5th birthday party, and we transformed it into a pirate ship for the party complete with a huge white sheet for the sail. Six or seven little pirates took over our yard that afternoon and declared the ship their own.

Twelve years later, it still stands in that perfect spot under the huge Chinese elm tree.

Looking incredibly weathered and saggy, like someone’s ancient aunt.

We talk about taking it down each spring, to make room for some chairs under the big old tree, or maybe a fire pit. A place where a family with older kids might spend some time.

There’s no reason to keep it there.

But how do you measure the life of an object that’s been both rocket ship and fairy hideaway? Garbage truck and “Girls Only” club? Pirate ship and quiet reading spot?

A place where treasures have been buried by a child, but where a mom has discovered that the real treasure is in these quiet times.

Fingers tracing the sand….plastic dinosaurs buried and excavated…..buckets of water hauled from the faucet to form sand castles worthy of a king….blankets and pillows hoisted up top for books, popsicles, and girl time.

It takes the prize as the ugliest thing in our whole yard.

But the memories alone make it beautiful to me.

Who needs a fire pit, anyway?

This post is for the Red Dress Club’s weekly writing club, Red Writing Hood. This week’s prompt: write a piece about something ugly – and find the beauty in it.


  1. Oh! Oh my! I really loved this. I have 4 little boys….who are desperately trying to grow up way too quickly. It made my heart ache…because I know someday our playset will no longer be played on. All the memories and giggles and games my boys play will someday be done…and just be memories.

  2. I can't imagine how special it is to you, built by your husband and your son, made into so many things by so many children over the years.

    I wouldn't be able to part with it either.

  3. Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds says:

    Nearly crying… I'm going to have her sandbox bronzed I tell you!

  4. I simply LOVE this! We just finished our playground at the end of last fall. It was a huge undertaking, and even seeing our kids "age" and mature during the construction of it (from May – November) made me get a little misty-eyed.

    Someday I keep thinking it'll be an eye-sore out there. But I'm all kinds of prepared for it to entertain our grandkids. πŸ™‚ Just let a girl dream. πŸ˜‰

    I miss stopping by more regularly. I'd promise to be better, but sporadic is my best right now. Please don't take it personally. I still adore every single thing I'm lucky enough to read of yours!

    Have a wonderful weekend, Sherri!

  5. Wombat Central says:

    Can you incorporate the old into the new? Sand for the base of the pit and maybe find a new use for some of the lumber that's in better shape?

  6. Stop. It. Now.

    You always make me cry and remind me my kids won't be this small for very long.

    Beautiful as always, Sherri.


  7. Galit Breen says:

    Totally. Who needs a fire pit anyway? Sob sniffle. You captured the wistful fast-ness (I can make up words in your comment section, right?) of it all perfectly.

  8. Sigh….your posts always kill me because they let me know what lies ahead….:(

  9. A good reminder to enjoy my boys now when they are young!

    I love the imagery, and not once did I see a fire put looking good there! =)

  10. Stephanie says:

    I do love this. Sentiments can make the most ugly thing look the most beautiful.

    –The Drama Mama

  11. Mandyland says:

    Oh man. I'm crying worse than I did in Toy Story 3. I'm just glad my husband's in bed so he doesn't ask me why.

    This was such a beautiful post.

  12. Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom) says:

    Sherri, I can relate to every word in this post. My son and his dad put together our very own sand box when he was 4. Now only two years later, I can see that the weather and time have taken its toll.

    Makes me want to spruce it up and get my kids out there tomorrow…before it's time to replace it with a fire pit.

    So beautiful Sherri.

  13. This is why I like moving, because then I am forced to Grow up! πŸ˜‰ I'd still have cribs up I think if I could………

  14. My thoughts?

    Fire pit, schmire pit!


  15. JDaniel4's Mom says:

    I would want to keep just to have it help me remember the wonderful times you just shared.

  16. Exactly! Who needs a firepit anyway? You would appreciate this one… The other day we were running late for my 6 y/o's basketball practice. I called out into the backyard that he wasn't to get dirty because we had to leave very soon. He came around the corner in nothing but his cowboy boots and mud.

  17. You HAVE to keep it up for the grandkids! However, you might want to get rid of the slugs.

    Also? I might just hire your husband to do a pirate ship in our yard – sounds awesome!

    The way you convey the memories of your children's childhood is always so lovely.

  18. The Empress says:

    Tweener, tweener…all these posts here need to be compiled and put together somewhere for we moms that get them.


    Think about it.

    This type of post is my favorite.

  19. RottenMom says:


    Same for us. We contemplate it every spring. And I can't bare to take it down.

  20. By Word of Mouth Musings says:

    I love you reflective, just reaches right in and touches my heart.
    Yes, there is something to be said for having moved as many times as we have, but that too makes me sad …

  21. I second what Empress said…I would love to be able to stop by and read these whenever I want.

    Please, if you could, also write some tips on how to slow it all down? Please?

    Beautiful post, Sherri…

  22. This is so beautiful and I agree with Empress and Nichole, these posts are treasures and perfect for the mom of young ones who might just be moving to fast to enjoy the little moments.

    Such a beautiful post.

  23. Sluiter Nation says:

    This immediately made me think of the swing set/sandbox that my dad built for us when we first moved into the house that they live in…30 years ago.

    Now my son and my nephew play on it, so grandpa (my dad) has had to fix some things on it. strengthen some old boards and replace others.

    It's an out of body experience to watch them enjoy a place that was mine when I was their age.

    Your writing, as usual, is so powerful. Not many bloggers can bring me back to my own experiences…cause me to relate this way.

  24. BalancingMama (Julie) says:

    That was sweet. We're at the beginning of playground memories. How quickly they will pass. Sigh.

  25. julie gardner says:

    Love this. So much.

  26. K Pugliano says:

    Sigh….I read this and look out my own window to the weathered swing set…so lonely now…waiting for someone to come and swing or slide or look out the periscope…

    They do grow so fast, don't they?

    I'm know exactly how you feel…

    Wonderful post!

  27. CDG @ Move Over Mary Poppins! says:

    Damn it.

    Firstly, "weathered and saggy, like someone's ancient aunt" is just great.

    Secondly, my Small Boy wants a swingset/fort so badly, and we keep saying no. We're hardly at home, we don't have the money, he'll grow out of it so fast…

    And now?

    You make me want to give him one despite all that.

    Wonderful post. Wonderful.

  28. Paula @ Simply Sandwich says:

    Wonderful post – I have tears in my eyes thinking back to all of the same fun our backyard offered my kidlets. It goes by so quickly! Don't take it down! πŸ™‚

  29. There you go again, making me well up. I needed to read this today! We have had a rough one and this reminds me even on the bad days, there is tremendous love. Beautiful post, Sherri!