The sun is filtering through the trees as it makes its quiet ascent to its place in the morning sky. The air is cool and still and the birds are calling to each other from all around me as I write. And a sun-faded red car with its one wobbly wheel sits abandoned next to me on the deck where it was forgotten about for some other toy yesterday.
When I was younger I always wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things. I would only listen to certain music or read certain books, and refused to let anything in my home or on my body that I felt didn't measure up to the image I was trying to present. If you would have told 22-year-old me that I would have cheap looking plastic toys in my house for my children I would have thought you were crazy. And that you just didn't get me.
In the last few years I have felt this very present tension within myself between that old desire and the realities of the life I lead now. I used to spend hours online scouring the internet for the latest indie band and read forums and obscure websites trying to find beautiful music, which I would listen to locked in my room while reading along with the CD liner and maybe crying (just a little). These days I listen to whatever is right in front of me, sometimes a CD (yep I still use those crazy old-fashioned things) and sometimes (22-year-old self please cover your ears) a good song on the radio. I used to sit beneath the tress and watch the clouds move and change above them as I pondered God and life and love and all its mysteries and lately I spend my time on such philosophical questions as, "what should I make for dinner that my 2 year old will actually eat," and "is that poop or chocolate, please tell me that's chocolate."
I'm starting to realize this tension I feel doesn't have to exist. That the addition of the faded plastic toy car in the picture of my idyllic morning doesn't ruin the frame, it only adds to it. That is the car that my children push each other around in, their squeals of laughter filling up the backyard as they tumble out of it. That is the car they push around with their chubby little feet. And it is also the car they use to bring me treasures like pretend ice cream cones and hot dogs that they present with chubby dirt-stained hands and expectant faces. I can't imagine anything more beautiful, more perfect, than the happiness of my children. I can't picture something I could buy, or wear, or hear that would bring my more joy than their joy. And I don't care if it is ugly toys or really crappy music (didn't I mention Everett's favorite song is a Selena Gomez number?). What is better, beautiful things or a beautiful life?
To reconcile my desire to find the beauty in this world and the realization that there is beauty in so many more things than my 22-year-old self dared realize might be the greatest gift that my 30's has to offer.