One of my favorite childhood memories was shelling peas at my Grandmother’s fruit and vegetable stand. My cousins and I argued over who got to shell the Lima Beans because they were the easiest. All you had to do was squeeze the pod at the end and it would open exposing the beans inside. It was exciting to see if the pod had two or three beans inside. It was like a surprise (Ok, I’m getting excited with the memory.) If one cousin got the Lima Beans, the next legume I tried to snatch up would be the black eyed peas because they were the next easiest to shell. You pull the end off, yank the seam and open, exposing the peas inside. Snapping the green beans was easy, but boring. Snap, snap, done. Nothing to it. There was one pea or bean that I had a serious aversion to shelling, but in my old age I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. Maybe it’s a mental block. But I do remember always fighting over the Lima Beans. Grandmama had solved those conflicts immediately though and she would decide that we would take turns. She had a memory like a steel trap and always remembered who shelled what last. That’s an amazing feat, considering that she had 15 grandchildren to pass through “The Stand,” as it is called. Shelling peas was fun (even for the one who got their least favorite legume).
Pea shelling wasn’t just about pea shelling. It was a way to hear stories from Grandmama on way the island used to be. She spoke of days where everyone knew each other and they held a real conversation catching up on the island news. Cars rush by too busy to stop unless they had a hankering for some fresh fruits and vegetables and came by. Every once while someone biking or walking along the path will wave. They might even buy something.
I love to watch my grandmother tally up everything, writing everything down in her notebook with that large loopy writing. The purchases would be packed carefully and the top of the bag was rolled closed to prevent spilling. When the transaction was finished, she picked up her own basket and began to shell. Shelling peas was a good time to let Grandmama know what’s going on with us as well. It connected her with each of her grandchildren. I admire that she had a special relationship with all 15 of us. She had a special relationship with her great-grandchildren as well. My dad and aunt run “The Stand” now. I’m thinking of going there the next time it is open and shelling me some Lima Beans just for old times sake.