Peas on a knife

Grandpa’s steady hand makes a lasting memory

As the holiday season approaches, I have been thinking about family, mainly family of the past. I don’t recall a Christmas spent at either of my grandparents’ homes, but a child’s memory is somewhat sketchy.

Since my mother grew up in Shawano County, and my father grew up in Milwaukee, I am sure we did not trek down there for Christmas but would likely go to Grandpa and Grandma Nuske’s farm, west of Shawano. I don’t remember Grandma that well, since I was only 6 when she died, but I do recall Grandpa and the farm, located on the end of a dead-end road.

It always seemed like an adventure when we traveled there. Of course, he didn’t know we were coming; he had a phone on the wall, but I don’t think it worked, and we couldn’t call it anyway, as we did not have a phone.

At Grandpa’s there was no electricity, but there were kerosene lamps, including a huge one over the dining room table. Eating at the table with Grandpa was an amazing sight, as he ate his peas with a knife. In my child’s mind, I could not understand how they stayed on there. Of course, knives used to be wider than is fashionable now, but he must have had a steady hand.

A couple months back, I talked with an older cousin, to be sure that my memory was correct. She was raised by Grandpa and Grandma and talked about what a gentle man he was in every way, and how hard they had to work. At one time the house had burned and everything was lost.

She explained that eating peas with a knife was a European tradition that the family had brought over from the old country.

Grandpa’s house was filled with wonderful things, I never knew what the next visit would bring. But as a child, my eyes would go wide when Grandpa ate peas with a knife.

The pantry had a pump with a handle to work, and with dishes to wash we did not shirk, as I dried them I’d reminisce again, about Grandpa eating peas with a knife.

That player piano in the parlor, was astounding to me, my cousins would pump the pedals with glee, I felt sad, as it was too hard for me, but then remembered those peas, and how they stayed, on Grandpa’s knife.

Grandpa lived through the days of buggies and Model T’s. My mother told me that they would heat rocks to put at the foot area of the buggy, and be wrapped with warm blankets, when they would drive to church on Sunday morning. But the one thing that remained the same, was Grandpa eating peas with his knife.

There was a cupboard in the corner of the room that held peppermint treats, “A stomach remedy” Grandpa would say so sweet. And he would share, with grandkids that were there, but only after he ate peas with a knife.

Grandpa is gone now, and the house is too, but my memory still remains true. It is a memory that is worth more than mere gold, a sight to behold, for that gray haired old man, with work worn hands, spilled nary a one, as he ate his peas with a knife.

I wish I remembered more of the details of those visits, but I do remember the love of family, and sometimes wonder, “Could I eat peas with a knife?”

Tigerton’s Leah Lehman, who calls herself a “small town country girl at heart,” offers memories of the past and observations of current events from the the viewpoint of someone born in the 1940s.