The Peanut Bond
***Under a crescent moon, cotton grows where peanuts used to. ***
I found myself thinking about Daddy tonight, and that’s a rarity these days. Nowadays, my trips to the farm are much more pleasant, and I don’t as often return home crying all the way and depressed for days and my children feeling the same. But not only did I think of him but I thought about a gentle time with him, and that’s the true rarity.
The pollen allergies got the better of me today, and I stayed home from work, nursing an awful sinus headache that started last night on my way home from my date and just got worse until later afternoon today when the meds finally kicked in. Sleeping until noon and pampering myself since then was really what I needed because I’ve been burning the candle at both ends this month and melting it in the middle as well.
But I didn’t feel up to lunch and my eating was sporadic all day. Nothing looked or tasted good. Then I spotted the bag of boiled peanuts in the fridge.
I grew up on a peanut farm, and I have eaten peanuts in every possible form–raw, parched, salted, boiled, salt-water pressure cooked, candied, sugared, honeyed, roasted, chocolate-covered–you name it. I’ve eaten them thrown into the air and caught with my tongue, snatched with one hand when they flew up out of the peanut picker bin, and even used them as ammunition against the guys who worked at the mill with me and nearly “put an eye out that way” and had to apologize profusely for beaning poor “Roscoe” right between the eyes when I really meant to hit his chest. I’m amazed that I still like peanuts, but I do. I grabbed for the bag and found that they–though direct from the grocery store two days ago–were about half bad. Daddy would have had hissy fits about these peanuts. And yes, I’m sure the farmers who grew them didn’t get paid enough either. They never did. Not in the days when my mom and grandmother picked the bad ones from the conveyor belt at the mill, not in the days when I worked at the same mill doing OSHA work or weighing full peanut trailers or watching old farmers weep when I told them of the aflatoxin parts per billion count in their field samples, and not in the last of the days when my parents finally officially retired from farming. Yes, everyone in my family worked for peanuts, literally, at one time or another.
As I dumped out the flawed bag of peanuts, I thought about what Mama said about a funeral she attended recently. Back home, funerals are still a big community event, as much for support of the family as for socializing. And of course, attendance is expected if you want your own to be well-attended, obviously a big goal in a tiny farming community. She recalled that the pastor had choked up during the funeral when he read notes that the children of the family had written about their grandfather and special times with him.
The girls and I talked on the way home about how that wasn’t done at Daddy’s funeral. We would have been hard-pressed to find many things to say. But there was one memory that I qualify as good, one in recent years when the good ones have been fewer and far between. The boiled peanuts brought it all back to me again tonight.
When I made the trip to the farm to tell my dad that my divorce was very close to being final–he’d pretty much disowned my older brother for shaming him with a divorce, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it–I told the girls to leave the suitcases in the car. He had no idea what was going on in my marriage, and I was fully expecting the same treatment he’d given my brother and that I’d be leaving…for good…within an hour or so.
I took Daddy out onto the back porch, in the rocking chairs, and had a very long talk with him. I gave him more information than he knew how to handle, which was a lot considering how he always longed for details of everyone else’s breakups and tended to ask questions that were none of his damned business. He didn’t ask me much at all. He didn’t have a lot to say, but I did not need to send the girls scurrying to the car that night. Later, we pulled some peanut vines and I sat in the back of the family room where the house edges out toward the porch and picked fresh, ripe peanuts and tossed them in a pan to be boiled later with the girls. Daddy came back in the house and saw me there, then pulled up a stool and creaked his old bones down to the floor with me and, in mostly silence, helped me pick peanuts for the boiling. Just the occasional small thud of a raw peanut into the pan between us to break the silence.
People often look at the obvious interactions between family members–husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings—and think they know what’s really at work there. They rarely do but who’s to argue with them? And yet, the moments of true emotional support often go unsung and pass into the night, lost forever because no one saw behind the veil.
Of all the things that passed between Daddy and me, good and bad and largely awful, the evening we found a common but silent bond among the peanuts means more to me than all the rest.
You are a wonderful writer.