The first castles were cups, bricks, boxes, and patted mounds. The last had my hand prints like clamshells emblazoned on the side. I would push them until they fell over, testing the sand. I sometimes would wait until they dried completely. The prints would be gone and it was just sand again, and my handiwork had disappeared.

I always used three fingers to pave roads in the sand for Matchbox cars. The wheels were crusted with dirt and rust, and the paint was flaking off of the cars. There was always a moat, always a window, and always a failed bridge over the moat. There was never much of a castle. My sisters would kick sand accidentally, and I would patiently start over.

I learned from Corinne to take soaking wet sand and let it drip from my fingers into a narrow little pile close to the edge of the beach. The wet sand looked like light chocolate, and dried to look like elegant brown sugar towers. I was a princess when I made these castles.

I began to drag the wettest sand in large rectangular containers to the top of the beach. I built the castle by pushing the sand up with my hands and pretending I was a sculptor. I made successful moats and pushed smooth rocks into the base of the castle. I planted trees in the front and created a garden. I dug deep into the sand to create a pool. The dried sandcastles would disintegrate and the sand in that area was always lighter, cleaner, somehow softer.

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