A Beautiful Life

Last week I pulled out our oversized bag of fall decorations: fake leaves, Thanksgiving banners, holiday cookbooks, pumpkin candles.

I lobbed it onto the couch and reached in for the first item before I realized there was nowhere to put it. The huge, overcrowded bookshelf across from the couch bulged with bins of toys, stacks of my husband’s theology texts, and the kids’ library books about whales and amphibians.

I took out the first bin and minutes later the living room was covered in the contents of an empty bookshelf in transit.

In the afternoons we’ve been walking along a tree lined path in between a factory and a massive apartment complex. The street next to the path is quiet, tucked away from the main roads. It’s where the massive machinery and semi trucks park on their off days, when they get a break from the busy traffic lanes of Korea.

True found a stick that looked like a rake the other day. It’s the perfect length for her height and forks out on one end into three distinct branches. She rakes the same pile of leaves every time we go, peeking over her shoulder to make sure no one will mess it up.

Jase barrels through the leaves and waits for me to turn around so he can run for the curb. He likes to step up and down. I catch him just in time as he bobs away in his stiff jeans. He runs just like a pigeon. 

Evan always finds the biggest stick, one twice his size, and pretends to fish in the trees. He sweeps across the lowest branches, flattening leaves as he passes over them with his massive fishing stick. “I caught one!” He says.

I follow behind surveying, supervising, moving the stroller just in time to avoid grandmothers on a walk together and white dogs on their leashes.

There are sticks and leaves everywhere along the path. Fallen, broken, crumpled, smooth. They mix together on the dirt, next to the path where we play and imagine, filed next to the road where the big trucks wait for their drivers, across the street from where apartment windows tower over all of it and people live inside each tiny box strung together in the sky. 

We walk beside each other even if we don’t realize it. We wait together even when we don’t know what we’re waiting for. 

Give me a minute to collect what I see, to snp a picture, to write it down.

Let me makes something of these pieces, scattered and piled together, let me think about the ways we are discovering the discarded treasure along the path, beauty in the smallest places, the crunch of the leaves under toddler tennis shoes.

Eventually the bookshelf is up against another wall in another room, away from the center of the house. I arrange the books in no particular order, shove the bins of toys back in place, and put a card from my grandmother front and center. Now every time I walk by, my eye catches the buds she painted stuck in a shallow vase of water, and I see the words I need to hear written in her handwriting: you have a beautiful life.

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