Make This Place Beautiful


Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

by Maggie Smith


It is quiet in the house during nap time. I pretend that I will do something useful, like vaccum or clean the bathroom. But just for a moment, before I do something really useful, I’ll sit down at my laptop with a cup of tea and think and write. Just to get it out of my head, this feeling, this terrifying feeling that it is going too fast and I am not paying attention.


Pay Attention.  In my consuming worry, in my distracted planning, packing, unpacking, planning, washing, cleaning, wiping, cooking, cleaning, folding, planning, talking, planning…. I missed it.


My son can button a shirt. He used to just lay there and cry and poop his pants. Now he can button a shirt. He can scale the cabinets to find our hidden stash of jelly beans. I am out of candy hiding spots.


I have this horrible feeling that we are in the best part of our lives and we don’t know it. Will we look back at pictures from these years and think about how good we had it.


We are always at parties where someone is pregnant or buying a new house; someone has gotten a new (better) job/car. Someone has just gotten married/engaged. We pass babies around like joints. An assortment of children weave around our legs to get to the cookies.  We are young but not too young. We still get carded at grocery stores and it makes us feel really sexy.

Our adulthood is spread out before us, our kids are not old enough to resent us, our bodies still resilient, flexible. We have wrinkles but not WRINKLES.

Our marriages are still repairable with a kiss or a little gift; No, there is never enough money, but we will make more money next year, hopefully.


Our responsibilities are heavy but not crushing. We still hold our breath a little bit every time we check out bank accounts. And we feel a bit more mortal than we did before we had kids. But we still take our health for granted. Death and illness do not drift among us like a silent fart, yet.


There have been tragedies, and there will be more.  But now, right now, while the early summer is seeping in. The air is warm but the grass is almost cold. The kids go barefoot, and it is easy to grab their attention, to make them laugh.


We have each other, we are weaving this net of peers in anticipation of future hardship. We help each other with the dishes… we never did that before.  We no longer burn bridges,  we are old enough to know the importance of bridges.  We add more and more people to the “emergency contacts” list.


One of the most vivid memories of my grandmother was sitting around her small dark living room. It was the only house I knew that had a working wall clock that you could hear. The AC howling in the hot California afternoon. Carpet scratching my knees, reading a forty-year-old edition of National Geographic. Watching TV in the late afternoon as she was reading the paper. She read the obituaries every day. And today she let out a disappointed sigh. “Aw, Betty is dead, that’s too bad, they are dropping like flies.” She spoke of an old friend like she was an independent bookstore.


I used to stare for hours at the old pictures around my grandparents house.  The creamy black and white school photos in those old oval-cut frames. The patina’d people in bell-bottoms and lace, smiling, standing next to a station wagon. A group of teenagers lounging on a dock at a lake. All people who I know and love but in those pictures, they are strangers to me. I am years away.


What will my kids think of  our wedding pictures? What will transpire between our wedding and my kids being grown ups? Will it be tragic? Will it be boring? I hope it is boring. Always enough of everything. Smart and lucky enough to be bored. I hope that my kids will go to their therapists when they are in their thirties and complain about how boring their childhoods were. How they had to escape their boring lives and their boring parents that were always embarrassingly boring.


Boring Childhood = Best Parents Ever


I can feel the future me poking past me  in the arm and telling me to just press pause right here. With our little kids and our little houses and happy marriages, and pregnant bellies. Lets live in this picture of all of us, healthy, happy, tired, angry, bored, unappreciated, loved,  and desired. I want to live here for a while longer. Before we are real grown-ups. Not just a bunch of teenagers playing house.


One thought on “Make This Place Beautiful

  1. I was so thrilled to get this email because I love your writing and this is beautiful. We are blesses with happy boaring lives


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