No sooner had my first child been born, than the house that I'd grown up in began to metamorphose into something unrecognizable. Toys began to emerge, seemingly from out of the walls, at every visit.
Cookies and juice boxes, once unknown there, began to fill the cupboards. Small clothes and diapers started to fill closets. A highchair moved into the dining room, dripless cups into the kitchen, and junior mattresses into the bedroom.
Even more surprising, perhaps, was the sudden tolerance for dirt on the carpet, spilled milk on the floor, and small sticky fingers on newly dusted furniture. When the dismissive comments began, even for the most inexcusable toddler behavior, I became certain that my parents - who'd been so strict in my upbringing - must have been abducted by mild-mannered aliens.
Somewhere along the way, after the title of "grandparent" was bestowed, the adults who'd played the crucial, guiding roles in my childhood seemed to have lost their minds. At the very least, the selection of rubber boots, storybooks, and stuffed animals was an indication that their minds had taken a sudden, jarring turn.
Other visiting adults with the claim to grandparenthood nodded knowingly, as they spotted the bright plastic swing hanging from the dining-room ceiling, or the pile of tricycles along the deck.
Gramma might be discovered reading the umpteenth story. It was hardly unusual to find Grampa hiding under the kitchen counter with a box of cookies and a pitcher of juice. I began to see them laughing off the fact of boots on the living-room carpet and the shrugging lack of concern about misplaced tools in the garage.
Surely some of the rules by which I lived must still exist?
On a sunny weekend morning, as we again visited the house that I had once called home, I came to the final realization that the parents I had known no longer existed.
What tipped me off was a phenomenal sight in the middle of my parents' lawn, something monumental. It wasn't construction material or a landscaping aid.
No, we stood in awe of a mountain, 20 tons of play sand with which my parents had created the largest sandbox that I, or my children, had ever had a chance to play in.
I nodded my head in disbelief. The sheer enormousness of the sandbox was a testament to how far removed these two grinning individuals were from the people I had known as "Mom and Dad."