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MARY’S MEANDERINGS: June 12-Shelling English peas

I’ve never written about it, but it was an experience that’s never completely “left” my mind, after all these years.

Maybe it has something to do with this time of year as I take stock of my world bursting with freshness and color and imagining Mama walking in the dewy grass to her garden to see if the rabbits have eaten her one row of English peas.

Mama said sweet peas or English peas (she called them) were difficult to grow, but with the yearly almanac for guidance, she always made room in her garden for at least one row, making sure she planted in the right sign. I’ve heard her say…”They might not yield more than one mess, but it will be worth the effort.” Evidently they must have yielded most of the time. I remember the taste and mama’s way of preparing them.

I’m not a gardener, but I know that English peas are synonymous with June, so the personal experience I now write about happened sometime in June, in the late 1930s, a fun day for my sister and me to be with three ladies we admired and knew so well…listening to grown-up conversations, sitting outside under the tree that gave us the most shade, while shelling English peas. That was the task for the day. The place was the Riggs residence.

Louise (Gamble) Price, our neighbor at that time, worked for the Riggs family in the months when fruit from their orchard and vegetables from their garden were in season, gathering and preparing.

Louise often invited my sister and me to go with her. We never turned down her invitation. It was always great fun for both of us.

Ruth Nelch was Mrs. Riggs’ sister. She also worked for them. Ruth’s husband, Joe, owned a sedan (30’s something) with a rumble seat. It was great fun riding in the rumble seat when they picked us up.

Since my sister and I just went along for the ride, we weren’t expected to shell very many English peas, so I took my time and was very observant as the English peas rattled, dropping into the bowl that rested in my lap.

It was plain as day…on one side of the pod I had pried open, the row of English peas had formed an indention. There was a darker color string-like membrane that circled the indention where three of the peas had rested as they matured. Clearly on one side of the pod, the word…GOD was spelled out! An experience that is just as vivid in my mind today as it was the day it happened as I shared it with Bethel (Mrs. Riggs), Louise, Ruth and my sister, Inez.

Back then…as a wide-eyed nine-year-old, this was quite a story to tell Mama, to my friends and to my Sunday School teacher, “Ma” Webb.

An experience that continues to silently “take on” meaning as I write and think how much I enjoy sharing childhood summertime memories, while remembering Ruth and Louise and Bethel and Inez, and Mama…checking that one row of vines in her garden, hoping they’ll yield enough English peas for one good mess.

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