Sweet Memories and Shelling May Peas

Tonight I sat on the couch watching a cartoon movie with the Husband and the Girl. One dog at my feet and another curled up by my side. My mind went back to the days of peas and snap beans with my granddaddy, Grandy. I remember him sitting in his chair with us girls nearby while the Braves played ball on the big garage tv. I think of the cat that mosied around trying to find spots of sunshine to lay in. I fondly remember the snap, snap, snap of the shells and ping, ping, ping of the beans hitting the pan. I can smell the beans and brown paper bag we’d dump the shells into. I think of reaching into the wood and wire baskets for the handfuls of beans and my granddaddy quietly shelling as his Braves ran the plates.  I can still picture his plaid cotton work shirt and his cotton pants on his long legs. I remember my daddy walking in from work and helping us (or kicking back in the recliner with his ball cap over his face for a quick nap) while my grandma, fondly referred to as Goodmama, finished up supper. I think of his nose getting drippy and him wiping it with his cotton handkerchief. I blink and I can see the pole beans growing up and over my head as I walked under the vines and picked the beans to put in my bucket. I think of the dappled shade as the sun’s light tried to stream through the leaves and the vines. I can remember the way it made patterns on my bare feet as my toes sank into the rich soil. I remember dancing under that natural arbor aisle of fresh bean vines and black dirt. I was young then, maybe elementary or early middle school aged. I smile as I think of him helping set up my little vegetable stand on the side of the road by the driveway and the hours I spent out there under the big ol pine tree waving to neighbors as they passed. I can remember his grumbly voice when I’ve got these peas in my hands. I hug these memories close and bask in the preciousness of childhood in a small rural community in the early 90s. 

Last week, we took the Girl to the field where her great grandparents still grow a spectacular garden and they showed her how to find and pick the best May peas. They showed her how to pop them open and she just about ate her weight in the little green balls of fresh sweetness. As we walked in the setting sunlight and got a fine coating of that rich black dirt on us, I watched as she concentrated hard on the task of finding good pods and then tried her best to get the little goodness out of the shell. She made her way down the row and I smiled as she ended up laying flat on her belly in the dirt. I walked down there and my heart smiled and she grabbed the smallest peas from the pod and shoved them in the hole she made with her little fingers and then patted it down.  “Whatcha doing?” I asked. “Plantin’ seeds!” She replied. The sunlight streamed over her great grandparents and the bushy plants of peas. The wind blew and the sky was Carolina blue and it just felt so good. Later in the week, we sat around in lawn chairs while she sat in the yard swing with her grandma and she perfected her shelling technique while we talked and enjoyed the breeze. We ran down the driveway to wave at Great Grandpa riding by on the John Deere and he came on home and sat around with us and talked about the work of the day, spreading lime.

That day in the field, I took pictures because I want her to be able to remember these days. I want her to be able to bask in the goodness of life in the early 20s when she’s a grown woman. I want her to be able to remember the amazing family members that have gone after a well-lived, long life. I pray she remembers their sweet legacy with fondness that’s full of love, sharing, hard work, sunshine and rich black dirt. 

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