When we moved into the older, white, house my young son immediately found the bare area for digging. To a young boy it was like finding gold.
Large pecan trees towered above the house covering the yard with shade, but the smaller trees allowed dappled sunlight through, while a vine-covered fence encircled the yard. Established years ago when the house was built, it became a private playground. The digging area, used before by other children, became a daily ritual, little boys playing war with plastic soldiers. Some days there were friends to play with and other days it was just solitary play, but the green plastic soldiers were always involved. So at first glance the military green and brown soldier appeared to be just another one of my son’s own plastic platoon. Closer inspection revealed that this was a soldier he had never seen before. This was a different soldier made from tin, from a different time period. Obviously poured into molds, the front and back were notched together in a slightly lopsided way. The green helmet and brown uniform belonged to another era quite different from the plastic soldier’s solid green. Everything was green even their hands and faces. After the first discovery of a different soldier a furious excavation began, everyone looking. There might be others similar to this one, soldiers of an ancient war, left behind, missing in action. Other parts of soldiers or sandbox toys were found, but never again a complete soldier.
The summer of the move turned to fall and daily playtime at the digging spot was taken over by homework and school activities. By the next summer, playing with soldiers had grown old and my small son was also growing older along with his games. The soldier stood at attention with other boyhood treasures on a shelf in my son’s room, ready for action, if he should be called for play. However, the simple games of summer boyhood grew into the computer games and cars of a young man.
Yesterday while packing away some of my grown son’s things for storage I found the sandbox soldier. I held it wondering at its history and thought of those carefree days. My children were small, summer days seemed to fill our lives, and the greatest priority when we woke each morning was, what we would play that day. Now we reminisce during family gatherings and my children talk about the time at the white house. Turning the toy over I realized I hold the toys of my son’s childhood only in my hands, but the memories I forever hold in my heart.