The pea plants grew tall, they intertwined amongst themselves, an orgy of greenery inseparable, and laden with plump pods. Who knew such a delicious offerings could bring tears and regret?
Dad lovingly tended the garden in our backyard before we moved to the farm. He would hoe the rows in the evening after work. He’d kneel down to examine the buds as they developed, and watch for bug infestations. The summer crawled along at a pace only children thought was slow. We would hover at the edge of the garden as he worked among the rows. The time to harvest grew near.
He calls us into the row of plants, and reaches down like a magician into a hat pulling up a couple of carrots. One for Cheryl and one for me. He rubs off the excess dirt and passes them over.
I look at the remnants of soil embedded in the tiny grooves of the orange stick, I give him a questioning glance, “Shouldn’t we wash it?”
He pats me on the head, “A little bit of dirt is good for you.”
Cheryl and I shrug our shoulders, and chomp on our garden treat.
I’m not sure where two year-old Shannon, is at this point. She is probably getting a massage from Mom, or maybe a pedicure. You know how the youngest always gets spoiled.
So, there we were, I was five and Cheryl was seven, Dad introduced us to the garden, but never really taught us how to pick peas. The pea pods are tightly attached to the plant, ideally, you use one hand to hold the plant, and pull on the pod with the other. This way you avoid ripping the plant apart, or tearing it up from the roots.
On the pea-picking incident day, Dad was away at work, slaving at a government job, like a peasant working for the kingdom.
Mom was busy in the house with Shan, probably giving her a foot rub. She may, or may not have told us to go pick peas. Maybe she just told us to go play outside so Shan could hear the spa music. At any rate, we ended up in the pea patch picking peas. They were sugary, fat, pea pods begging to be eaten. We ripped them off the plants like starving little savages. We popped the pods open, and devoured the little green seeds. Perhaps if Mom had looked out the window, she would have seen a couple Tasmanian devils ripping through the plants shouting, “Me wants more!”
When Dad came home, I was lounging in my room letting the peas digest. It was hard not to hear, the sound of him arriving home. The slamming of the door was like a gunshot, ricocheting throughout the house.
“Where are they?” He shouts.
“What?” I could hear Mom reply.
“The girls! Did you see what they did to the garden?”
I hear Mom walk to the window, and pull the curtains back. “Oh no.” she says.
“Yeah. Oh no is right. Look at that mess. All those hour of work, and just look. Most of the plants are pulled up.” The anger in Dad’s voice is clear.
I feel the vibration of his stomping feet, and his belt jingling as it comes free from his belt loops.
I scramble under my bed. Up until that point, I had never had a spanking.
Dad grabs Cheryl, and then heads to my room.
I cringe. I’m about to get my first pants downer. Being brave was the farthest thing from my mind.
I cry as he pulls us by the hands to the bedroom.
His face is flushed and his hands tremble, “You girls wrecked the pea plants.” He stares at us with ferocious eyes, “ You made a huge mess of them. You can clean it up after this.”
I stare at him with wide eyes. I feel hot salty tears and snot roll down my face. “I don’t want to get the belt.”
He puts Cheryl over his knee first, because she’s the oldest. The smacks of the belt against her skin ring out sharp and clear. She was a rock. Man, she could have been a spy. No one could ever break her. When Dad is finished, she flicks me a look that says, “See that’s how it’s done.” I covet her stoic nature. She leaves the room with her dignity intact.
I had no concern for dignity— mine was all over the floor. “No Dad please don’t.” I’m trying to pull away. “I’ll never do it again. I promise.” I’m sobbing uncontrollably.
Dad really had no option, Cheryl got the belt, Debby needs the belt too.
I remember laying across my Dads lap. I recall the sharp sting of the leather. I think back on my wails of protest. It was the first, and last time I ever got the belt. After that day, I tried to be Miss. Perfect, failing miserably at being perfect, but succeeding at avoiding the belt— and Moms wooden spoon.
The pea-picking incident was a defining moment in my life for sure. It was the first time I really understood, my Dad was living his life according to the rules passed down from the previous generations.
My house had no belts, or wooden spoons for butt walloping purposes. I used wooden spoons for making cakes and cookies for my kids. I used a belt for hanging in the closet until I accomplished my thin weight. I gave each of my kid’s one quick swat on the butt in their lifetime. Although after questioning them, none of us remember what it was for— so it wasn’t life altering. What they do remember, is my deep demonic voice. The one that Satan envied, the one I saved for the occasions when I really needed them to pay attention.
Maybe one day my daughter will write a story about how she hid under the bed while Satan possessed her Moms body. And Dillon? Well, he was in the midst of receiving a massage from his Dad. He was the youngest after all.