Just three little words.
That’s all it took to send me back in time.
Three little words hastily painted in black, on a whitewashed board, “Purple Hull Peas.”
Cars sped by the little stand and the little old woman, barely visible behind her bushel baskets of peas. Perhaps those passersby did not know the meaning of the words, but I do. I know what purple hull peas mean.
They mean summer in East Texas.
They mean swatting at mosquitos and swapping stories on the back porch.
They mean purple thumbs and forefingers for days and days.
They mean well worn hands teaching eager new ones the time honored art of shelling.
They mean a familiar “clink, plink, plonk,” as they hit the enamel pan – it might as well be Popo’s fiddle, playing our song, the way the sound of those peas makes my heart dance.
My Granny was even more excited than I was.
She rocked and shelled, smiling all the while, and told my fellas about the old days when her mama and daddy would treat her and her brothers to a drive in movie, providing they would agree to shell peas while they watched.
She told them how her Daddy, my Popo, loved those peas so much that he ate them with every meal but breakfast for as long as she could remember.
She told them that the cows considered those leftover hulls a treat of the first order.
She told my men too, that they were “world class shellers” and made them promise to “sit and shell awhile” with her again next summer.
We shelled, we did, for five hours (well, the Granny and the Mama did anyhow). Five hours in which a thread that runs through my Granny’s childhood, and my mothers, and mine as well, was woven into the fabric of my own little men’s lives so that one day, far from now, three little words, “purple hull peas” will mean, “home, family, comfort and love.”