Peas in pods and letters in cement

I like peas. Scratch that. I REALLY like peas. That’s how I ended up standing in front of the house I grew up in, and that’s how I ended up finding something that I had entirely forgotten that I knew about, and that had meant so much to me so long ago.

I like peas. Scratch that.

I REALLY like peas. That’s how I ended up standing in front of the house I grew up in, and that’s how I ended up finding something that I had entirely forgotten that I knew about, and that had meant so much to me so long ago.

It’s funny how it’s often the little things in life that get to you. That make you slow down for a minute, so that you aren’t tripping all over yourself, and just stop and stand there like a dummy.

Except that at that moment even though you look like a dolt, you are, for a little while realizing that all is right with the universe and that for once you are comfortable in your own skin.

I can hear you going: “All that because of peas? Like, garden-type peas?” Well, yes, sort of. Not those new-fangled snap peas where you eat the whole thing, the old fashioned ones with those little green pearls of yummy-ness inside big green pods. I hadn’t been to the Farmer’s Market yet this year, and last Saturday when I suddenly realized that I was missing out on pea season I headed on down to what I still call the “old fairgrounds”.

As I may have mentioned several dozen times before, I had a happy childhood growing up in the downtown area called Parkvale, right beside the old fairgrounds where the old Arena still stands.

Then, I could see the entire fairgrounds and the mighty grandstand bleachers and the oval racing track perfectly from the second floor windows of the big white house, and I spent long hours at those windows.

All that is gone now, the fairground part I mean, but the house is still there, and that’s where I parked last Saturday to go to the Farmer’s Market.

I parked at that house like I’d done a thousand times a thousand years before on my Honda 50 Sport motorbike that I spent half my life on in those days, and then again in my Mom and Dad’s 1958 Ford four-door when I learned to drive a car.

I hadn’t been that near the old house in a long time, even though we regularly take Scamp the Deranged Shih Tzu for a drag (he getting kinda old) at his favorite place, Barrett Park. So it was a strange time-warp moment getting out of the car.

In fact, I almost strolled straight up the curved sidewalk and into the front door. Out of sheer habit, still lingering from — what — almost five decades ago?

I looked the house over carefully — much had changed. New owners over the years have built on to it, nearly doubling its size, and the golf course lawn that I grew up playing on was now chopped up into various chunks of overgrown landscaping.

My meticulous Mom would not have been pleased.

And then I walked down that familiar street toward the fairgrounds. Past Mrs. Gurley’s place next door, where I used to pick a couple of the sweet yellow flowers on her caragana hedge along the sidewalk and munch on them on the way by.

That caragana is now 20 feet (160 meters) high, no flowers in sight. Then on past the house where Glenn used to live with his dog Blackie — the one we saved from the dog catcher.

There’s the little brown house where the werewolf dog lived — the one that attacked me while I rode home at night on my bicycle after my first horror movie at the Paramount Theatre.

And around the corner — the old fairground, although now the big white wooden entrance gate is long gone, a gate we seldom went through on account of we would sneak in for free under the fence over by the barns. (But don’t tell anybody).

And then I’m back in 2012 in the middle of the throngs at the market, and I find the best peas in the place and I say hi to lots of friends, toss toonies into the buskers’ music cases, marvel at the myriad of booths, and somehow resist loading up on deep-fried goodies. And when I’ve strolled the entire labyrinth I head for the car.

Another journey back into Parkvale, this time with a big bag of beautiful fresh peas, and when I get to the car in front of my big old house I can’t resist stopping and breaking open the mesh bag and digging out a handful of plump pods.

So I’m standing in front of the house eating peas and just looking around. So far no one has called 911 or cracked open the door an inch (15 centimeters) to ask me what on earth I’m doing standing in front of their house eating peas.

I’m alternating between my favorite two de-podding techniques: splitting open the bottom of the pod and using your thumb to shovel out the peas into your mouth, and pulling apart the two sides of the peas so that you have opposing rows of peas on each pod half, and then nibbling one pea at a time from each row.

And I’m remembering that my pea history began in Mom’s perfect garden, filling my grubby face until I couldn’t take another pea, so to speak.

But when I turn from the front door and head across the little sidewalk on the boulevard to the car, munching on peas from the present and the past, I come to the curb. And when I bend down to pickup a dropped pod, there it is.

Carved in the old cement at the foot of the sidewalk. Three handmade letters: “H” “A” “Y”.

It was definitely my writing, and I suddenly remember scratching it with a stick in the wet cement one happy summer day somewhere in the late 60s. Who would have guessed that it would still be there?

It’s probably just a fanciful trick of memory, but I’m certain that when I carved our family name in our sidewalk, I had a pocket full of pods, and that I was chomping away, like I was now, on a mouthful of perfect peas.

I’m not sure why, but I dug out my I-Phone and took a picture. Just three crooked, careful letters in the cement, lasting a lifetime. A little hello from the long-ago me to the right-now me.

And then I stuffed my pockets full of peas and I drove away.

Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.

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