When the boys have been significantly quiet for a while it is generally cause for concern. Every moment of peace unchecked could be quite disastrous, for everyone. How long does it take to cover a building in crayon? How many rocks can fit in the standard SUV tailpipe? Don’t even tell them the one about the banana. I’ll fall for it.
Hence my following the sounds of silence to the sandbox. I had been inside, working and drinking my body weight in cold cups of coffee, and I hadn’t heard so much as a scream in some time. Perhaps this doesn’t seem odd to you, but trust me, it is.
Normally my asking them to play outside is followed by their loitering at the door and window like vagabonds outside a diner. They will stand there and bombard me with their verbal pleas and puppy dog eyes. I’ve tried throwing them loose change in hopes they just wanted a bottle of Thunderbird, but that only makes them all the bolder.
I suppose a better man would make them his muse, but that would require a certain amount of acceptance, which in turn requires bits of wisdom and inner peace. I don’t claim either of those attributes, at least not enough to drown out their never-ending cries for love and attention. No, I prefer to throw toys and snacks randomly in the yard like some sort of angry piñata that’s taken one hit too many, and tell those pesky kids to stay on my lawn. It works in ten-minute increments, fifteen if there is shade.
I found them in the sandbox, one in his underwear, one in his diaper, the uniform of the outdoors. They had managed to remove the lid, something that I was led to believe required my assistance, and were sitting in the sand surrounded by too many beach toys. They were playing and laughing and enjoying themselves, each other, and the moment. It was amazing. They were an accent and a plate of finger sandwiches away from a Fitzgerald story.
I ran and grabbed the camera, proud that they were able to achieve such harmony, and wanting proof should such things every be doubted by friends, family, or child protection workers. One can never be too prepared.
I hid from their view and snapped pictures of my two adorable boys, playing so well, so happily. I thought about sending the photos into Parade magazine or perhaps the Saturday Evening Post. Norman Rockwell had nothing on the moment. Obviously, I would be hearing from the “father of the year” people very shortly.
I snapped the pictures and I watched. There was summer in that box and I wanted to dive into it, deprived of waves though it was, and swim in its sunshine. I wanted to play, laugh, and be happy. I wanted to never go inside again.
Then the boys stood up, one in his underwear, one in his diaper, and they turned into hourglasses. Their respective uniforms of the outdoors were filled with shovelful after shovelful of sand. This was the pinnacle. This was the goal towards which they had labored with focus and determination. They had reached it and now time was running down their legs.
I wanted no part of it. I turned and moved with stealthy steps and I went back inside where work was waiting, stoic and alone as I had left it. I figured I had a good ten minutes before they were at the door, loud, dirty, and hungry for my affections.