Tending the Garden of Life, weeds and all

Published 8:03 pm Saturday, August 13, 2016

Why do we wrestle with who we are?

It took me nearly 30 years to come to terms with who I truly am. I pushed back against the things that reminded me of where I am from, a little rural town well-hidden along the back roads of Mississippi.

My daddy was convinced that my brother Tony and I should know a thing or two about removing weeds by steering plows through the rows of peas we helped him plant earlier in the season, but I was less sure.

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Mama was equally convinced I should sit with her and a big dishpan beside mountain of freshly picked peas, shelling them for supper or for her to can. I rebuked it all. Both shrugged their shoulders and said, “One day you will grow to appreciate these things.”

How right they were.

Eventually, Daddy gave up gardening for the convenience of peddlers on the side of the road such as Old Man Charlie with his sign that read “freshly picked.” Mama discovered the invention of the electric pea sheller, and it was never quite the same on Dykes Chapel Road.

The lessons a little boy learned all those years ago are not lost on me today. Both of my parents were strong-willed, hard-working, and more than a little stubborn, but the peas made it to the table by supper time, time and time again without fail.

Maybe they had to be strong-willed for their family to survive. Daddy was never sure Old Man Charlie was giving him a better deal if he bought by the bushel, and Mama had a love-hate relationship with the electric pea sheller because it mashed the peas. I can still hear both of them fussing, not at each other really, just at the air.

Last weekend I found the most exquisite settee at a flea market in historic downtown Pueblo, Colorado. It was planted there just for my eyes, so I thought, and as I stood with a consternated look on my face wondering how I would get it into the minivan, I thought of what Mama would have done. She would have made it fit some way, somehow.

The scene was hilarious — with me blocking traffic, flashers on, straddling that settee, determined it would submit. I pulled on the arms, shoved the bottom, and even took it all the way out into the street a couple of times to reconfigure my strategy. Horns blew, the sun boiled overhead, but with only beads of sweat on my forehead and my mama’s inherent will passed down, the settee surrendered and was loaded.

Daddy would just have shrugged his head. Whether we are wrestling settees, tractors, electric pea shellers, or who we are, we are never alone tending the garden of life.

David Creel is a Mississippi native and a syndicated columnist.You may reach him at beautifulwithdavid@gmail.com.