“Finding Peace Wherever You Can”, column for Jan. 29, 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.


  1. Christopher Laughlin says

    I figured I was the only one who thought Daddy and Them was a great movie. I recalled it after reading this story. It has been a few years since I viewed it also. I have three children and know very well that you definately find peace anywhere you can. Great story. Just letting you know you have a new, loyal reader. Hope to read more great stuff soon.

  2. Cynthia Marks says

    As is often the case, you Sharon, made me cry this morning, what a lovely start to my day.
    I too am a mother, grandmother, wife, sister—-also a retired teacher and artist. My husband spent yesterday snowmobiling in Michigan with our son-in-law for his birthday, time together his only desire! And last weeks column was copied and shared with my daughter who often thinks I want to see her and the kids “too much”! It helped, thanks! Your work is wonderful, always the highlight of my Sunday paper reading, just wanted to take the time to say —thanks so very much for sharing your talent and life!

  3. My mother will be 90 this July. Every year when asked “what do you want for your birthday?” her reply has always been “peace and quiet”. A party is planned this year with all 9 of her children and their spouses, 22 grandchildren, 19 great-granchildren and several nieces & nephews attending. Think she’ll get her birthday wish this year? 🙂
    By the way – shouldn’t you add “wife” to your many titles listed on the heading of this website? Just saying…………….after all, your sweet hubby does grace many of your wonderful articles (which I forward to my mother each week – yes, she uses her computer daily).

    She lives alone and likes it that way, drives somewhere around town every day , loves her daily newspaper and crossword puzzle and always has a jigsaw puzzle in the works. But her greatest passion is one you share – READING. Right now she is reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”. She believes in reading a book and then giving it away so others can enjoy, but one book she has kept on her shelf is “Birdbaths and Paper Cranes”. Not because it was a gift from me either – she kept it because you are her favorite columnist. She will love this most recent column – not because it is about peace and quiet – but because it is all about her favorite actor!

  4. Your words usually bring a laugh and a sense of peace to our hearts.
    Thanks for sharing your life with us.

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