Barbara Simmons: Sand

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Few items are as common or have as many uses as sand, especially in the hands of a child. Barbara Simmons has this Perspective.

It seems inevitable. In addition to American Girl dolls and the game of Risk, the Toy Hall of Fame named the simple pail of sand as one of this year’s inductees.

Who doesn’t remember the feeling of sand between our toes, and, if we had tumbled in the sandbox or on the beach, in our mouths? I remember first realizing sand could flow like water from my sand pail, could reform itself, when dampened, into material for sculpting and molding. How often had these small grains helped me build castles and produce sand pies?

I’d later learn sand could be used as an abrasive, when I took sandpaper and rubbed smooth pieces of wood I’d later want to stain. How many times have I seen sandbags outside building entrances, protection against floods? How big a supply of sand we had during Boston's winters, when our sidewalk and steps could never have been managed without a sprinkling of sand.

But it’s the days spent, as a child, in those sandboxes and at the beach, an endless sandbox, that I remember as I note sand is now in the Toy Hall of Fame. More recently, pre-COVID, I’d had a chance to visit sand when I played with my granddaughter in her favorite part of the playground near her home in Warsaw, Poland. There, the universal favorite of every child was present – sand, and plastic toy shovels and pails. Didn’t matter that she couldn’t speak Polish with other children. Just sitting in that space, wielding a little yellow shovel, dampening the sand with some water from the fountain nearby, meant all were builders, visionaries about all the phantasmagorical creatures they were molding, all the small cakes being readied for snack time, ultimately shared, sand being that kind of community connector. That’s probably another reason for naming sand a prize winner. Its dimensions are infinite; its adaptability endless.

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Maybe Congress could install a sandbox next time it needs to work on playing well together?

With a Perspective, I’m Barbara Simmons.

Barbara Simmons is a retired educator and a published poet.