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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)

TITLE: Shellin' Peas and Talkin' Love
By Glynis Becker


“What’s it like, Gran?” Shelling peas was an activity that Gran always said was good for a body, ‘cause you could ponder a bit, let your thoughts wander, but at the end you still had something to show for it. So that afternoon, inside the screened porch, with a pitcher of lemonade between us and the smell of magnolia in the hot, southern air, I asked my grandmother about things I could never talk over with Mama. “Bein’ in love, I mean.” I almost didn’t get that word ‘love’ out around the nervous giggle that it brought to my lips. Even at fourteen I knew that the word carried a lot of something precious with it. I just didn’t know exactly what that was.

Gran looked sideways at me. “What is love like?” She tried to hide a little smile. “Well, honey, philosophers, theologians and poets since before the time of Solomon have tried to describe it, so I’m not sure I’d be likely to shed any new light. But I’ll tell you what I know.” Two more pea pods quick as you please. She had the fastest hands of anyone I’d ever seen. I was always right impressed when I watched her work.

She brushed her hands off on the tea towel and picked up her glass of lemonade. A ring of sweat had pooled on the little table and Gran wiped it away before she started talking again. I looked at her face, one of my favorite faces to be sure, but now her eyes sparkled in a way I hadn’t seen before or at least not in a long time. The sweet smile that curled her lips made me think she was playing a moment over in her mind. I didn’t want to miss anything, so I thumbed out one more pea pod, set the bowl aside and focused on her.

“Love encompasses a whole mess of things, but I can only tell you what I know from being in love with your Grandpa Frank.” She wrinkled her mouth, like she was trying to get the words just right. “You know that old hard-sided suitcase I have in the attic? With all the travel stickers on it? I think a heart is a lot like that suitcase.

“God lands a piece of luggage in each of us, just the right size to carry all of our love. Then He starts filling it up: a comfortable sweater to remind us that His arms are always around us; a nice button-down shirt and a pair of trousers so we learn to be both respectful and respectable; shoes to make sure we are free to move around wherever He sends us. And when He has filled that suitcase up, it starts spilling over. We get a chance to choose who gets pieces of what we’re carrying. We don’t always dole it out like we oughta, but that’s another story.”

Gran reached into her bowl of peas and ate a few before resuming. “So here we are with our filled-up hearts, spilling over to those around us. And for many people, that’s all they need. I thought it was for me, until the day I met your Grandpa Frank. All sudden-like, God moved aside what was in my suitcase and said, ‘Plenty of room here, Maribeth. Let him fill you up with some of the things he carries and you can help him do the same for you.’ We both knew it right then and there and I never loved another man in all my days.

“But, yes siree, sometimes that luggage needs a good airing out. Between you and your man and you and God. That’s a good thing. A little like finding a destination along the way. You take out pieces of this and that, use what you can, give a little away and clean your heart out. And as long as you fill it back up God’s way, with kindness and faithfulness, that luggage will last you a good long time. So even though Grandpa Frank went to glory six years ago September, there’s a spot in my heart that no one else will have. It’s not empty now, mind you, just expectant.”

Gran picked up her bowl and began shelling peas again. “Did that answer your question, sugar?”

“I guess I was thinking you might say it’s all about butterflies and fireworks.”

Grandma winked over her glasses. “There might just be a little bit of that, too.”

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Member Comments
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Beth LaBuff 06/12/09
I enjoyed the image of the two "shellin' peas" with their lemonade and conversation. :) I especially like the image of the suitcase and "sometimes that luggage needs a good airing out." You have a good message in this!
Phee Paradise 06/13/09
I love the imagery. Also a great ending. I want to meet your grandma.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/15/09
That was really a delightful analogy for love tucked among the imagery of the old and young shellin' peas together.
Nancy Gustafson06/15/09
This story brought back memories of grandmothers and the important connection between them and their granddaughters. Well written and a sweet story.
Bryan Ridenour06/15/09
You helped me envision the two sittin', shellin' peas and enjoying a sweet lesson on love. Nicely done.
Lollie Hofer06/15/09
Well done! I thoroughly enjoyed the voice of Gran. The luggage was a great analogy for life, living, relationships and love. Excellent use of this week's topic. This was fun to read. Your imagery was also well-written
Sara Harricharan 06/17/09
Loved this grandma, the dialog was just right on and I loved the line with the butterflies and fireworks. Really great story!
Mona Purvis06/17/09
Oh, to be someone's "favorite face".
Nowdays, we nuke in microwave, wash/dry clothes, never iron, and take all kinds of labor-savers. There was a more gentle time when laundry day was all day and picking and shelling peas or canning peaches was an all-day event...allowing for those involved to "share" their lives. Miss it. Love your story!
Eliza Evans 06/19/09
I just LOVE this, Glynis. What a beautiful, tender warmth throughout. So uplifting...it feels like a hug!
GREAT job. Very well done but not at all overdone. Creative, too. I am impressed! :)