But the sand always crumbled. Maybe it was because they let it sit too long without use. Their monthly rendezvous in the sandbox was hardly sufficient to keep a civilization thriving. The castle towers were cracked and one of the walls had fallen in. Emily was always repairing it since its plastic residents were too statue-like to keep it up. But she was only ten, and she could never make the walls as smooth or straight as her father could when he would join her in the reconstruction.
The sandbox itself was every child’s dream. It was a rectangle, five feet wide and six feet long. Her father had built it and put it in their unfinished basement. The box itself had wood supports that raised it a foot off of the clammy cement floor. Emily knew she was much too old for playing in the sandbox. She had just stopped playing with dolls, but it seemed too much of a sacrifice to give up everything at once. Actually, giving up dolls hadn’t been that difficult because playing with them had always made her feel girly. She was Daddy’s little girl, and she didn’t want to jeopardize that status. As the oldest, her father had forgiven her for not being a boy, but things could change. Playing with dolls had to go. But the sandbox was different; her father had built it, so using it would not make her look weak. Besides, Mr. Hessler was a builder, so she was learning his trade in miniature. Every time she watched him carve a gateway or build a wall in their sand castle, she marveled at its perfection. She watched his strong muscular arm delicately carve the trim around a tower window, and she wanted to grow up to be just like him.
Emily wanted to grow up just like Mr. Hessler because she was always afraid of growing up like her mother. Emily didn’t want to be teary-eyed and grouchy like Mrs. Hessler was most of the time. She wanted to be strong and never let anything hurt her. Mr. Hessler was like that. He could rise above every situation and go on as if everything was normal.
He and Mrs. Hessler would often argue about the moral implications of one business endeavor over another. Emily always thought their arguments were stupid and usually agreed with her father. But Mr. Hessler often gave in to Mrs. Hessler for reasons Emily never did understand. After her parents’ arguments were over, the worst part came. Despite the fact that she had won, Mrs. Hessler would be irritable for at least a week. Emily hated that. Mr. Hessler, on the other hand, seemed to forget that there had been an argument only a few hours before and resumed his methodic, melancholy state of mind. Emily, escaping the guilt-ridden doldrums in the house, usually found herself watching him work in his shop. She would sit on his rolling stool and use her feet to scoot around the room. Sometimes they would talk about what he was building, and she would call him “Dada.” Later in the evening, they would climb the twenty-yard hill to the house. Mr. Hessler would hold Emily’s hand as they felt their way through the darkness until the motion light sensed their presence and enveloped them in a shrouded glow. Emily loved her father’s hand. It was three times the size of her own. She felt safe there, and she knew she