Peace is wherever you find it

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 2, 2013

One of my all-time-favorite movie lines comes from one of my all-time-favorite movies: “Daddy & Them.”
(Note: This film is not what you might call appropriate for “family viewing,” though that depends a lot on the family that’s viewing it. If you decide to view it, don’t blame me.)
(Second note: I should also say I first saw this movie years ago after my sister sent it to me. I’d have likely seen it anyhow eventually, but if I don’t give her credit, rest assured, I will never hear the end of it.)

The line is spoken at the scene of an accident in which the leading character (Billy Bob Thornton) lies strapped to a stretcher, drunk, bloody and wearing a neck brace, having narrowly escaped the clutches of death in a head-on collision.
His wife (Laura Dern) arrives at the scene and erupts in abject hysteria, only to weep with relief upon realizing that he is not, as she first feared, “hurt bad or dead.”
Then, in a quick shift of gears, she begins to give him grief for what she perceives to be a wanton flirtation with a female ambulance driver whom he credits for saving his life, even though, as he says, there wasn’t anything really wrong with him.
He responds to her white-hot tongue-lashing with my aforementioned favorite line:
“I can’t even have a head-on collision in peace!”
All that is to say this: Once in a while, whether we realize it or not, we all need a little peace and quiet. The trick is knowing where to find it.
My oldest came to see me for his birthday. I considered it a gift. Few people come to Las Vegas for peace and quiet, especially on their birthdays. Let alone, to see their mothers.
But that is why he came, he said, to spend some time with me and my husband in our home and take a break from the noise and bustle of L.A., where he lives and works as an actor.
I’ve spent a lot of birthdays with the boy, though not many in recent years. They never used to be about peace and quiet.
Growing up, his birthday parties were sleepovers with a bunch of his buddies, preceded by a basketball game (his dad was a coach) or a swim at an indoor pool, followed by pizza, all aimed at tiring them out.

It never tired them out. One or more of the little toads would be up all night. Which meant I’d be up all night, too. Fun? Yes. Peace and quiet? Hah! But the memories were worth it.
But just as he outgrew training wheels and Superman capes and “Star Wars” action figures, in time he outgrew sleepovers. And the best I could do for his birthday was food: A birthday cake or pancakes or pasta.
So I did food this time, too. He’s not keen on cake anymore, but he let me make pancakes. Burgers. Roasted veggies. And chili. The boy still likes to eat.
Then one night we sat on the sofa and watched “Daddy & Them.” He said he’d never seen it before. And he laughed, just as I knew he would, in all the right places, hooted at all the jokes — almost as loud as I did.
I wish you could’ve heard us.

These days, I find peace wherever I can.
In neon sunsets that spread like wildfire across the desert.
In the memories of loved ones I have known and lost.
In the look on my husband’s face when he plays his bass.
In that lovely light that shines in the eyes of my children and their children.
In the words of friends and readers who write to say hello.
And lucky for me, this year, on his birthday, I found it in the sound of my boy’s laughter.
I hope he found it, too.

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