Monday, May 16, 2011

Old Metal Bowl

Every summer, we shelled peas. My grandmother got out this ginormous bowl, not real deep but broad across. It was metal, covered in white enamel or paint, probably highly leaded. We'd pull the peas still encased in their protective green shell out of a basket on the concrete porch and split each one open with our thumbnail. I'd run my nail along the length of the shell, separating and pulling the two hemispheres apart. Pretty little peas inside, purple hulls.

We'd shell out on the back porch, Mama and Grandmother talking, breeze blowing gently on the wind chimes creating unique harmonies in the thick summer air, until our thumbs were both green and sore.

Grandmother carefully washed the peas running her fingers through the contents of the metal bowl, pulling the bad ones out. I can smell them now as I type the words ~ the raw purple hull peas. I can smell them; I see her standing at the stove, blanching, cooling, packaging, and putting away for the future. That was the way she did things. How I wish I could go if but for one day and watch it all again.

I found that old metal bowl Saturday and brought it home. There was so much more I wanted to bring home with me. If I could, I'd pick the whole stinking house up and put it in my backyard. In all my 34 years, it's the only thing that has been the same since I was born. We moved a lot, my dad's parents moved a few times, my parents have moved since I moved north. So much change, and yet that house was my constant. Every Christmas Eve I was in that house. I can't recall a single year that I wasn't. Must have been a few when we lived in other states, but the majority were spent there.

No matter what, I knew I could go there and things would be the way they should be. There'd be ice cream and waffles in the kitchen freezer, chocolate syrup in the cabinet, the Braves or Alabama football (depending on the season) on the TV, and my grandmother in her chair. There were pins every where. My grandmother was a seamstress, and various people were in constant motion in and out of her front door needing their skirts and pants hemmed or dresses taken up or let out a little, so pins were common. And thread. Little strands of color all over the sofa and chairs.

Grandaddy piddled a lot outside, and when he stilled his tall frame for longer than ten minutes, you'd catch him napping. He had this pillow thing on the floor in the back den, which was really the master bedroom of the tiny house they called home. He'd lay down on his side in front of the TV in the den, one of those big wooden encased old sets, and prop his head on that pillow and be out in no time. His long legs nearly stretched from one side of the tiny room to the other.

All the life has left the house now. The areas in the back yard that once grew tomatoes and muscadine vines are nothing but grass. There's no TV. Grandma and Grandaddy aren't there anymore. Their hearts are still beating, lungs taking in air, but they are long gone. The people they once were have left, and their minds are back in places like 1952 living in homes that have since been condemned and playing out memories in their head.

Funny... I find myself doing the same thing. Playing out the memories in my head. Standing on that wooden bench for Grandmother to pin a hem in my hand made Easter dress. Watching my Grandaddy slice a watermelon on the back porch or crank the ice cream maker. Smelling those raw purple hulls. Wanting to go back, to take it in one last time, to appreciate it more, to tell them in their sound mind, "Thank you... thanks for all these beautiful memories."

Instead, I'll hang on to that old metal bowl. I don't think I'll ever part with it.


Chelle said...

I used to shell peas with my grandmother, too. When she went into the nursing home, I got her old enamelware bowl, the Pea Bowl, as we called it and I cherished that bowl until it met with an unfortunate accident and was broken. Now, I try to grow peas in my garden so I can recapture those days on the back steps with my grandmother. Those are the things that we cling to, I think.

I'm thinking of you, my friend.

Rebecca said...

As I was reading this, all I could think of was my grandparents house. It sounds like our grandparents could have been good friends. I got a few things from my grandparent's house when my mom and aunts cleaned it out.
I know you will think of them each time you look at the old metal bowl.