Well Lived

"Well lived" by Ann K. Frailey (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2018), CC0 Public Domain

My youngest son decided to reorganize his room today, and when I went to check, I saw that he had piled a stack of box springs and mattresses on top of each other to rival something out of The Princess and the Pea. He called it King Sized. Yep. I’d say so. I swallowed and merely asked him not to fall off in the middle of the night and break himself into Humpty-Dumpty pieces. He assured me he’d be careful.

I had a sudden memory of the first time one of my boys climbed a tree, reaching what my mother’s heart considered dizzying heights. I knew at the time that climbing trees was a normal pastime for kids — I had climbed plenty in my day — but still, I had the urge to ask him to get back to earth. An urge I resisted.

Later as I plodded up the steps with my umpteenth load of laundry, I noticed that my formerly clean counter was now hosting what looked like a rather odd science experiment involving toothpaste, shampoo, and baking soda. I didn’t even ask. Just waved my hand in a “You know what you’ll be doing when you’re done — right?” attitude. “Please don’t spill it all over the floor” didn’t even need to be verbalized.

Sometimes I wonder what a stranger might think if he or she wandered into our home on any ordinary day. It’s generally quiet, though the piano is played quite a bit. Holidays and birthdays are celebrated in style with a cleaning frenzy right before. With laughter.

But more often than not, there are piles of books here and there. Pencils and papers scattered about. Drawings half-finished on the couch. Knitting projects proudly ensconced on a living room chair. Woodworking projects clutter the basement floor. Broken floor tiles skitter underfoot. Light smoke from the wood stoves tints the walls. A couple door handles are loose.

It is a well-used house. The kitchen sink is practically never empty, even though I (and the kids) do dishes the livelong day. The washer and dryer have given us their hearts and souls several times over. Footsteps patter upstairs or down the steps constantly. A door opens and shuts like a heartbeat.

We are not living in a magazine. Nor would I want to. The kids learn from taking their room apart and building glorious beds. They see new heights from the tops of trees. They practice drawing a face … or a landscape … a hundred times over and scatter the results everywhere. Birdhouses are built and hammered on posts outside. The birds come, lay eggs, and their lives join with ours.

There will be a day when the footsteps will fall silent. When the beds are made to perfection and the counter will stay clean for days on end.

I do not forward to that day. I am content with reality right now.

Our lives may not be perfect, but they are well lived.

Copyright 2019 Ann K. Frailey


About Author

As an author and teacher with a degree in Elementary Education, Ann Frailey has written and published nine books, and several of her articles have been published in national magazines. In 2016, she earned a Masters of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment from Full Sail University and won two course director’s awards. Ann belongs to the Catholic Writer’s Guild, home schools, and maintains a mini-farm with her children and their numerous critters.


  1. A beautiful reflection on “this old house” in the well-worn, well-lived motif. I still kick myself when my daughter at age 6 (she’s now 12) came feverishly running into the backyard carrying all the scrap pieces of wood from the basement. She wanted to build a fort underneath the deck of our new house. (I did not want to start hammering into the beams.) And I remember her sigh. She was deflated. Her new neighborhood friends were coming over…and they were all set to build a fort!
    Somehow we got passed that. (There’s a big trampoline in the back yard now). But at the time, I ached with the reality principle stifling my child’s creativity and imagination.
    I am glad for all the times she shows me her drawings and things she does online since then. And I know, like your article, there will come a time when I will miss that and remember it as much as I remember that day she brought all that wood out of the basement.

  2. Thanks, Jay:) It’s always a struggle to know when to allow…and when to put a hold on a project. But such is parenthood…a juggle of herculean efforts, love, and imperfections. That’s undoubtedly why God must be in the equation for anything to work out well. I can hear His sigh echo mine many days. But I suspect that He’s smiling.

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