Dig It

The camp sand box
Ginger, Emile, Kelly, & Gayle at the Camp

Dig It  1962-  (Breakfast at Tiffanys)

Only my right hand had dark brown sand stains. A rainy afternoon at Grandma’s camp near south Louisiana’s Calcasieu River meant coloring and playing cards on the front porch or digging in the sand box off the side porch.  My sisters and I had dug holes and shallow moats and created lopsided sand castles for over an hour. The rain pelted the tin roof as Grandma, Stella Parrot, and Momma sat and talked over Salty Dogs on the front porch. 

We had kitchen spoons for shovels and two empty plastic gallon ice cream containers for buckets. My hair was in high pigtails and most of my curls stayed in their rubber bands.  Gayle had a new pixie cut just below her ears, and less hair made her look more confident.  Two-year-old Kelly had hair that barely reached her shoulders and bangs that made her large brown eyes look soulful. 

When her firecracker temper stayed contained, she watched her sisters with a focused stare unusual for a toddler.  Any activity the older girls got involved in had to include her. During sand castle construction, Kelly tried filling one of the buckets until that bored her. But this baby sister would not be left out.  She threw Gayle’s spoon into the rain-soaked grass and stepped into my half-filled bucket of sand.  After many, “Stop that’s” and “No, Kelly’s” Gayle and I took turns burying the two-year-old’s feet while the other sister tended to sand castles. 

Once the main buildings looked decent and Gayle was building a moat, I taught Kelly about tunnels. I dug two three-inch holes with her spoon about a foot from each other.

“This is your hole,” I told Kelly.  “Now use your hands to dig sideways to me.” And I demonstrated how to dig. 

“Dig,” said Kelly, and we worked together.

“You dig my way,” I said, “to make a tunnel.”

“OK,” said Kelly.

After a minute of digging, I moved to Kelly’s hole and saw she was digging down, not across.  “Dig my way,” I repeated.  “Make a tunnel sideways,” and I tried to show her.

“My way,” said Kelly and pushed me aside.

“That’s not a tunnel.”


So I made the tunnel myself with my right hand, using my fingernails to scrape sand out of my hole and dig to reach Kelly’s hole.  My left wrist hung bent and useless at my side. I wiped loose hair from my face with the back of my good hand. I felt like the tunnel was almost done. Kelly stopped digging and looked over at Gayle’s moat progress. I guessed the two-year old’s thoughts. 

“Hey, Kelly, put your hand in your hole.”  She looked at her boring hole and back at Gayle’s interesting project.  I dug faster.  Kelly stood up.

“Hey! Lookit your hole,” I said. “We made a tunnel! Stick your hand in!”

Kelly reconsidered and knelt by her hole. 

I raised my voice gave her my best smile. “Wow! We made a tunnel! You’ll see when you stick your hand in!” I said. 

And like a miracle, just as Kelly reached in, my fingers broke through the sand, wiggling and reaching for the toddler’s hand.  We both smiled as fingers touched and I strained to shake the small hand. Kelly squealed at the success of the sand tunnel. 

“G.!  G.! Lookit me!” Kelly told the moat maker.  Gayle kept working.

“We did it!  You and me!” I said, and Kelly’s excitement got her up and dancing.  She stomped our sister tunnel collapsing it.

Then she danced toward the unimpressed Gayle. “I did it! My tunl!” she said and her jump destroyed half of the moat. 

“No! Kelly! No!” said Gayle, but Kelly jumped toward the rest of the moat.  Gayle stood and pushed Kelly backwards and her fall destroyed the fancy half of the sand castle where her sister had added rocks and leaves as adornments.  “Stupid Kelly!” said Gayle and threw double fists of sand at the kid.  Kelly kicked with both legs to bring down the other half of the castle.  Gayle tossed half a bucket of sand at Kelly with most of it landing in her eyes.  Kelly screamed and lunged for Gayle, but since the long black hair had been cut off, the toddler had nothing to grab.  The girls tumbled around in the sand. 

I walked to a wooden sand box swing, sat, and used my toes to move it back and forth even though raindrops peppered my back. The swing creaked back and forth, and I listened to zydeco…zydeco…zydeco rhythms coming from the adults’ radio on camp’s front porch.

I sat on a sofa in my New York City apartment with handsome Fred. I wore a sleek black dress, and my long dark hair was arranged in a fancy twirled bun to accentuate my dangling diamond earrings. I went to the table and from a large hat box pulled out a dramatic black hat with a prominent white sash. As I put on the hat, an orange cat jumped on the table and then out the window even though it was raining.  “Hey, Cat!” I said. 

Fred moved next to me and said, “You don’t have to leave.” 

I said, “But of course I do, Fred, darling,”and I donned a pair of cool sunglasses. “Please help me find Cat.”  I pulled on a beige rain coat, walked out the apartment and down the stairs. 

Fred followed with, “Wait. You know I love you.” I stayed focused on finding Cat and rushed down the busy sidewalk and turned into an alley when I heard meows.  Cat was behind a trash can and I reached down, rescued him, kissed his wet head, and tucked him into my rain coat.  Fred ran to meet us and hugged and kissed both me and Cat.

“You’re getting all wet,” said Gayle as she watched me swinging into the rain. 

“Gingah!” said Kelly.  The sisters had stopped fighting – more interested in my strange behavior than throwing sand.

I jumped off the swing, approached my sisters, and brushed sand from Kelly’s yellow romper.  “Look at you, my darling, you are such a mess.”  I picked up my youngest sister and rested her on my hip.  “Let’s go have a coloring contest.” 

“OK,” said Gayle and kicked the ruins of her sand castle world.  “I want a popsicle!” 

“What an absolutely marvelous idea!” I said, and Kelly smiled and rested her sandy head on my shoulder.

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