I killed my dryer. Or at least I thought I killed it. But my handy husband spent over an hour last night performing emergency dryer surgery and he thinks perhaps it’s not completely dead after all. What a relief. I’m not sure I could bear the responsibility of cold-blooded appliance murder. It wasn’t a premeditated act so maybe I could plead guilty to dryer-slaughter and get off easy. “But your honor I was just transferring a load of clothes and emptying the lint filter when I sensed that the baby was crawling up the stairs (up: not a problem; down: another story) and once I had rescued her, the phone rang and then, after about 15 other interruptions, I returned to the laundry and turned on the dryer and it wasn’t until much later in the day, when I went to unload the clothes, that I realized I had failed to put the lint filter back into the slot. I promise I would never deliberately make my dryer eat socks. Especially since the sock that made it the furthest down the shaft and ended up tangled in the motor was one of my favorites: a thin white anklet with little flowers embroidered around the top.”
Ken dangled the sock in front of me last night – behold exhibit A! – so severely stretched that it would now reach well above my kneecap. I’m thinking that the mangled sock is a fitting symbol for my brain. Once lovely and useful, now full of holes and stretched a bit too thin.
After he had extracted the sock but still had the dryer open, Ken called me down to take a look inside. I knew exactly what I’d see, and there it was: a layer of sand at least an inch thick. I knew it would be there because we own a sandbox and my children practically live in there during the summer months. We do our best to make them dust off their clothes and dump out their pockets before coming into the house (short of stripping them naked and hosing them down I’m not sure what more we could do), but still I have seen the sandy residue that lines the tub after their baths, I have heard how the vacuum (back when we had a vacuum) crackles and pops its way across the carpet, and I have felt the grainy texture of the lint when I pull it from the dryer’s lint filter. (Back when I used to empty the lint filter and then put it safely back in the slot where it belonged.)
Ken and I have a hate / love relationship with the sandbox. He hates it / I love it. I realize it has some drawbacks, but in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh them. The kids need a place where they can be creative and get dirty. Well, at least the kind of “dirty” that a control-freak mom who loves the idea of a contained pile of somewhat clean, dry silica within a fenced yard right outside her kitchen window will allow. One of the first things we did when we bought our old house (after installing an outlet in the bedroom so we had a place to plug in our alarm clock without stringing an extension cord all the way to the bathroom. Hello? Why had no one in the home’s 50 plus years of habitation gotten around to THAT?) was build a sandbox in the backyard. Ditto (except the part about the outlet) for our current home.
I’m not really sure I understand the bottomless appeal of the sandbox. Why do my kids love it so much? With what abrasive magic does it hold my boys’ attention for hours at a time? How does it manage to draw a small crowd of neighborhood children, even the older ones who spend the rest of their precious free time in front of television and computer screens in dark, air-conditioned rooms?
I ask Ethan: “What do you do in the sandbox?”
He says, “Build things. Towns, cities, dams, roads.”
“Does it matter that they all fall apart?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “Sometimes demolishing things is the best part.”
I want to project metaphors onto them, my children in the sand, playing with entropy. At the very least, I want to quote soap opera slogans at them: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” (Not that I ever watched this soap opera, rushing home every day from High School to get my daily fix or obsessing along with my girlfriends about the status of Hope and Bo’s ever-imperiled relationship and taking bets on whether Steve had a healthy eye under that awful patch).
I want to tell my kids that sand, formed from the weathering and decomposition of rocks, symbolizes the transient nature of time. That, as the foolish man learned the hard way, we don’t build houses on the sand because it is shifty and unstable. I want to tell them – gesturing dramatically to the garden next to their sandbox – how sand is essential to life; without it to keep the soil porous, our plants would die of thirst. I want to interpret their childish play – the building and the destruction – as a microcosm of other more universal patterns: the growth and decay of nature, the rise and fall of empires, the flourishing and death of all mortal things. I want to see the world in their grains of sand.
But I won’t. Because maybe it’s just sand. And maybe they’re just kids. And, at least for the moment, as shifty and transient as that moment seems to be, they are just playing.
“Mom, is it okay if we use the hose to flood our city? We want to see if the levies will withstand the latest tsunami.”
“Sure. But be sure to dust all the sand off your clothes when you’re finished. It’s bad for the dryer.”