My daughter brought everything she needed to ensure a good first day at the beach—sunglasses, lotion, goggles, bodyboard, a book, a doll, and flip flops. It took three people to help her get it all from our hotel room to the sand. I felt like a butler.
As if to prove the maxim that less is more, my son’s gear could be carried by him alone. All he required was a pair of swimming trunks and one very stout, very solid, and very plastic shovel.
Embedded within the male DNA are strands specifically designed for one purpose only—to Do Stuff. We like to get dirty and sweaty. To have a goal in mind.
My son’s goal that day was a simple one. He wasn’t going to get in the waves. Not yet, anyway. That had to wait. Because in his very young mind, the mathematics of the situation were simple and twofold.
Beach + sand = pirates, and pirates = treasure.
He offered me a beaten spare shovel and asked if I would join him. I did. Like I said, a guy’s gotta dig a hole when he’s at the beach. So while the females with us began sunning and swimming, we got down to work.
“You sure there’s treasure here?” I asked him.
“How far do you think we’ll have to dig?”
“That depends,” he said. “Pirates were smart. Maybe we’ll just have to dig a little.” He paused and then added, “But maybe we’ll have to go to China.”
“That might take a while,” I told him.
He answered by digging, and I joined him. We had a pretty decent hole five minutes later, and we’d also worked up a pretty decent sweat.
“Wanna take a break?” I offered. “I bet the ocean feels good.”
“No, Daddy. We have to work first, then we can play.”
Twenty minutes later. More sweat. Bigger hole. So big, in fact, that it had already caved in twice. Evidently we had begun to reach Pirate depth, because he was now scooping his share of the sand into a yellow strainer and sifting it. The tally was two rocks and four cigarette butts.
“Need to keep looking,” he said. “I know there’s treasure here.”
Twenty more minutes. Our hole had begun to take on impressive proportions, to the point where another team of father and son walked by and offered, “Nice hole.” But still no treasure. And as enamored as I was about a shovel and fresh sand, I was getting bored.
I think he was, too. Or that he sensed it in me. In either case, my son decided to break the routine a little. He started to sing.
It was a medley of songs from Toy Story, Phineas and Ferb, and Spongebob. And it was good. So good, in fact, that I started to sing with him. It put a much-needed rhythm to our work.
Twenty more minutes. Our hole had matured to the point where he could stand in it nearly up to his waist. I offered that if we didn’t find any treasure, we could at least bury him up to his neck. That would be fun, I said.
No. “There’s treasure here, Daddy. You just have to believe.”
I didn’t. But I dug anyway.
I watched out of sheer exhaustion as he put a scoop of sand into the strainer and shook it. A tiny storm of worn rocks and shells fell onto the pile beside us. And then there was a clink. Something had stuck, too big to tumble through the holes.
It was a tiny but perfectly intact clam shell.
He held it up, eyes bulging with wonder.
“Treasure,” he whispered. He held the shell out to me. “I want you to have this, Daddy.”
That shell is sitting here on my desk as I write this. A memento from a moment in time, yes, but also something much more. We all look for treasure, whether it be love or dreams or a better life. We dig and sift and search, and it’s easy to go about it the wrong way.
But just to keep you on task, I offer you this bit of how-to from my son, an expert treasure hunter.
Work first, play later.
And always share what you find.
My friend katdish wrote a guest post for Author Culture today. If you’re a writer looking for some tips on how to market yourself online, it might be worth a read. Tell her I sent you. And then tell her I said to get back to work.