“Are you some secret world peace activist, or just a throwback hippie?” a friend asked when she came to my house for the first time.
I had no idea what she was talking about until she pointed out the glut of peace signs all over the place.
Guests are greeted by a hand-painted ceramic tile hanging in my foyer that reads, “May
All That Enter Know Peace.” Above my stove in the kitchen is a big, wooden peace sign. On my red leather couch is a black peace sign throw pillow. Hanging on my garden fence is a battered tin peace sign I ordered from a mail-order catalog. I wear an Alex and Ani bracelet with a peace sign charm. Through the years my friends have given me many peace sign presents. I’ve gotten a set of coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, a wooden box for my bureau, earrings, charms, rings and even a peace sign scarf that warms my neck when I take my power walk on these frigid February mornings.
Still, I got a chuckle out of my friend’s comment realizing that what we portray is so often the total opposite of who we are.
Much to my ever-loving spouse’s Master’s-in-Middle-Eastern-History chagrin, I could no more pick out Afghanistan on an unmarked map than I could tell you what they’re all worked up about in Ukraine. And as far as achieving hippie-dom, well, having grown up in the 70s, I did my share of trying, but the closest I got was Galax Virginia for a weekend folk festival.
World peace is not what I pray for, though I’m known for flashing a peace sign to strangers who cut me off in cars, to friends as a greeting and to the teenagers I find sleeping in my basement in the morning.
I have always created my own turmoil. I make mountains out of molehills and always imagine the worst scenario first. I take on more tasks than I can possibly handle and complain when I don’t have time to breathe. Why stop at two kids when I can quadruple the chaos with three? Why settle for PTA president when I can join the Little League board and teach Sunday School as well? Why steer my children toward once-a-week student council meetings when two-a-day (times three) athletic commitments would do?
Every year child rearing got harder. My parenting standards got higher. My kids got busier. The more out of control my life became, the more control I craved. I started counting the years until I could move into a retirement community with the security of knowing that every Wednesday night at 7 would be Bingo in the Blue Room and I wouldn’t have to miss it because I was at a parent-teacher conference, or a baseball game, or both. I felt like I was in a war zone every day of my life.
I didn’t intentionally start collecting peace signs. They just kind of found me. Maybe they came as a gentle reminder for me to seek a sense of calm. To let things go. To listen before lashing out. To learn to say no. To hold fast to the hope that peace will come.
The peace has come. It always does.
With only one self-sufficient high school senior living at home, there isn’t much left for me to do. The bathtub almost fell through the kitchen ceiling this week and as the bathroom gets repaired, my topsy-turvy house is covered with a fine film of dust and workmen greeting me as I emerge from my bedroom door in the morning. Something like that would have put me over the edge in my heyday, but today, I barely flinch.
I didn’t do a great job of keeping a peaceful household. I fussed and fretted. I flipped and faltered. But we all made it through. While I can’t change the past and I can’t erase the battle scars, there’s always hope for the future. And so, I fluff up my peace sign pillows with an old familiar tune flowing through my soul:
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Sometimes you just have to hum it till it happens.