Yeah, yeah, the little red-headed kid’s super cute and all, and I know you remember having a stacking rings toy just like that one, but before you trip too far down your own memory lane, let me tell you the story of that end table there on the right.
Our kitchen table, where we ate all of our meals, was just around the corner from that part of the living room, you see, and once a week my mother served peas at supper. She not only served them, she actually expected me to eat them, never mind that I hated peas like nobody’s business. Despised the little smushy grayish-green soggy balls of ick – I mean, these were canned peas, early 1960s commercially canned peas, and they were gross. My mother would have none of my pea-hating ways, though, and there were always threats of forcing me to sit at the kitchen table all night until I ate them. I’d eventually gag my way dramatically through a spoonful, sobbing, and end up getting sent to bed in disgrace, but at least I’d gotten away from those damn peas… until next time. And I always knew there’d be a next time.
I don’t know how the plan came to me, but it was so simple and brilliant and beautiful, and it quickly became my routine when faced with the dreaded legumes. I’d be left sitting at the table by myself, pouting, with those nasty peas. Momma would take baby brother over to the sink for a wipe-down, and, with her back turned to me while she was attempting to clean a flailing toddler, would lecture me on the health benefits of all vegetables, especially green ones, peas in particular.
And that’s when I’d make my move. I’d grab my bowl of untouched peas, leap lightly from my chair and around the corner, lift the lid of the end table, dump the offending contents of the bowl, and be back in my chair before Momma was halfway done getting my little brother’s face clean. See? Brilliant. I felt mildly guilty while receiving praise for being a good girl and eating my peas, but the relief at having avoided having to taste those peas always outweighed the guilt – a little bit, anyway.
Did I ever look in at the old peas while I was dumping subsequent bowls? Heavens, no, no time for that, and I honestly can’t say if it even crossed my mind, but I doubt it. I don’t think I gave a single thought to the fate of those peas once they left my possession.
I’m not sure how much time actually went by – linear time has never been one of my strong suits – but at some point my mother began sniffing at the air strangely when she’d walk through the living room, and it wasn’t too long after that that she found them. I was playing in the back yard when I heard the screams, and I knew instantly what had happened, although at that point I was unaware that quantities of margarine-soaked cooked peas, when placed in a covered warmish area and left to their own devices, will, over time, grow huge amounts of hairy mold resembling nothing more than a huge dead rodent, with an accompanying dead rodent smell.
I was headed at full speed towards our big forsythia bush that was in glorious yellow bloom and that I knew made a terrific hiding place when my mother hit the back porch, yelling my full name at the top of her lungs. To say that my blood ran cold in that moment is one of the great understatements of all time.
Of course I did the only logical thing: I blamed my little brother. The fact that he was just learning to walk seemed completely inconsequential – perhaps I was channeling the spirit of Kellyanne Conway-Future and her alternative facts, I do not know – and I went with my story hard.
Sadly, and much to my astonishment, my story did not fly with my mother – not even embellished with much waving of arms, eyewitness accounts of the many times I’d seen my baby brother do superhuman and evil things, ugly sobbing, tears, and big puppy eyes. I do remember my mother’s face and mouth shaking strangely after she spanked me, though, as she was sending me to my room, and her voice sounding funny, like she was choking or something. It wasn’t until many years later, when I had kids of my own, that I realized she was doing her absolute best not to give in to hysterical laughter.