How to build a sandcastle (or anything)

1990

I woke up slowly to the sun shining through the sheets, and pulled my blanket up over my face to bring back the darkness. I was settling back into my dream when I remembered. I jolted awake.

The sandcastle.

My dad and I spent all day building it, while my mom sat on the beach reading her book. My dad said the trick was to start by making the sand wet so it was strong. We filled my blue bucket with water and sloshed it over the sand, making a wet spot partway up the beach. Then we went back to the water and filled the bucket with wet sand. We packed it down tight and brought it back up to the wet spot, and when we flipped the bucket over on its head the sand that came out was shaped like a castle. But you had to lift it up so quietly. Otherwise the sand falls apart and you have to do it again.

We made four castles like this, and then my dad showed me how to make the walls connecting the castles. We smooshed sand into tall walls, and then we carved windows in them so the sand soldiers could shoot arrows at the bad guys. We had to make sure that the walls were flat on the top, too, so the people could walk across them without falling down. I did a wall all by myself, but it wasn’t as flat as the other ones.

Then we did a trick. We took wet sand in our hands from the water and ran so fast back to the castle and dribbled the sand in our fists and made spikes on the top of the castle. Every spike we did special like this. These were for protection. We made little windows in the spikes too with a stick, just like the castle in the beginning of movies. This way the townspeople could see out.

My dad never made a sandcastle with me before. It was perfect.

I threw on my clothes from the floor, dirty from last night but that’s ok, and ran downstairs. My dad was eating breakfast. He was usually gone when I woke up, but at our vacation house he didn’t have to go to work so he was there and he smiled when I came down. I told him I wanted to see the sandcastle we made, and he said he’d come with me down to the beach. We ran down the stairs and took off our shoes and ran onto the sand. My dad couldn’t keep up with me because I’m so fast.

But it was gone. Our sandcastle was gone, and the sand was wet everywhere around where it was, not just in the one spot. I cried and cried, and my dad hugged me. I hated the sandcastle. It was perfect, but it was gone.


2020

I thought of that day so long ago with my dad, when I built a sandcastle with my son at the beach in Northport last summer. We wetted the sand and used a bucket that looked almost like the one I remember to create the turrets. We crafted the walls just so, and added the spikes that were my favorite part when I was young. My son lit up when he saw how the dripping sand stalagmited into spikes on the corners of the castle. That was the best part. Well, that and when I showed him how to draw the windows. I told him we had to make it just perfect, so the townspeople could live there. He found two pinecones and put them inside the castle, and said they were the mayors. He was so proud. It was perfect.

I told him it wouldn’t last, that it would be gone by tomorrow, but even though he acted like he understood then, it still hit him hard when the tide came in and washed everything away. He said he hated it, and he wished we had never made it. He cried so hard, I almost wished we didn’t make the sandcastle. Well, maybe not, but at least I understood.

I’m so glad we made the sandcastle, but I’ve stopped caring about sandcastles long ago. I’m so glad because I got to spend time with my son, and see the gleam in his eye when we dribbled those spikes for the first time. I can still see it now.

It’s gone, but it was perfect.


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