This blog posting is dedicated to my grandniece, Sydney Priester, who asked me about my memories of my parents and pecans. Thank you, Sydney, for prompting a wonderful trip down memory lane!
Trees That Gave More Than Shade
When I was growing up, our two pecan trees were my favorites. One pecan tree served as the anchor for my swing. I flew like the wind on the swing my father had fashioned out of a board and rope. He hung it on the sturdy branches of the pecan tree.
In my teenage years, my father added a backboard and basketball hoop to the other pecan tree. I would dribble the basketball across the grass (no small feat), jump as high as I could and lay one up. I also practiced my long distance shots from the free throw line, also known as “by the garbage can.”
All in How You Say It!
I never knew any pronunciation of the word, “pecan,” except “pee-can.” When I went to college, I met some people from up north. They called them “pic-cahns.” I corrected them. They informed me I could not be right. They said “pee-cans” were things people used to urinate in. I felt sorry for them that they didn’t understand. To me, they are still “pee-cans.”
In fall, I had unwelcome company in the form of caterpillars, who built nests in the branches of the pecan trees. Some fell out before ever making it to butterfly or moth status. They were everywhere on the ground and occasionally dropped into my hair, prompting my squeals of “Daddy, get rid of these things!”
The Race For The Nuts!
When the pecans began to fall, it was a family affair to pick them up. Any that were still in their green covering were to be rejected as “too young.” Those out of their covering or almost out were fair game.
Also rejected were the ones that had already been bitten into by eager squirrels. If they got to them first, we conceded it was theirs. However, the competition only heightened the race for the pecans. We felt victory each time we came back to the house with a full bucket.
Don’t Smash Them!
My father had a nutcracker in the garage. He carefully cracked the outer shell of the nuts and deposited the cracked pecans in another bucket. It looked like fun. I convinced Daddy to let me crack pecans. The first time I used his nutcracker, I put all my might into it. Nut pieces went flying everywhere. He patiently swept them all up. He then gave me my first lesson in nut cracking.
“Don’t smash them,” He said. “Open them gently … just so.”
He demonstrated. “It’s like that with people. If you want to see what’s inside of them, you can’t smash them. You open them gently.”
Picking Out Pecans
When we were done with cracking the pecans, we took them to the back porch. Our family sat in a circle with our little knives and gently worked the shell away from the nut. The goal was to remove the nut from the shell in intact halves. All the intact halves were bagged up and taken to Craddock’s Hatchery.
In addition to selling baby chicks and other things, Mr. Craddock bought pecans to sell. He was only interested in the intact halves. He wanted no pieces. So “picking out pecans” was a meticulous process.
Of course, when we failed at our mission of getting intact nuts out, it was not really a loss. The pieces were relegated to bags for my mother’s baking … that is, if they made it to the bags. All of us felt the need to sample some of the pieces, just to make sure our pecans were of good quality, of course.
A Real Miracle Revealed on a Nutty Day
Our nibbling often led to remembrances of another “nutty” day. We once had a preacher come to preach a revival. He told us on the first night of the revival, that on the last night, he would show us something we had never seen before and something we would never see again. The anticipation built through the week.
On the last night of the revival, the church was packed. With proper drama preceding his revelation, everyone was on the edge of their seats. He then reached in his pocket and pulled out a peanut, still in its shell. He cracked open the shell and held up the peanut. He said, “There you go, folks. No one has ever seen this peanut before!” While everyone was feeling a little sheepish for expecting something more, he popped the peanut in his mouth, and said, “And that’s it. You will never see it again!”
As Daddy tried some of those pecan pieces, he said, “You just saw it for the first time and now … (dramatic pause) … you’ll never see it again!”
A Life In Pieces
After I grew up, my parents got a freezer. It was perfect for storing all the vegetables they got from their garden. And it was perfect for storing the pecans. My mother said they “kept better, stored in the freezer.” When I visited, before I left, she would always go to the freezer and get some pecans out to send home with me.
They were a comfort item. As I went back into my sometimes turbulent adult life, those bags of pecans reminded me of a simpler time of real love and laughter. I went through a difficult divorce. After a topsy turvy couple of years, love bloomed again for me and I remarried.
The first time I went home to visit after my new marriage, I enjoyed all the things that my mother had baked, including the variety of things filled with pecans. When we started to leave, Mother gave me a few bags of pecans. Right away I noticed, they were not pieces. They were all whole pecans. I immediately told her she grabbed the wrong bags.
She smiled. “No, I didn’t,” she said. “Sometimes life just lets you have pieces. But sometimes you get wholes. It’s time.” And it was. I have been married to the Love of my Life for 38 years now.
Who Knew? Pecans Are A Fruit!
In reading about pecans, I discovered that technically they are not considered a nut. They are a type of fruit. I smiled when I discovered this, because The Fruit of the Spirit as detailed in Galatians 5:22-23 describes perfectly my experience with pecans. God and my parents gave me all of these!
The fruit of The Spirit is
Love, Joy, Peace,
Patience, Kindness, Goodness,
Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control!