True Confessions: My Sister Peeled Her Peas

My sister in her pea-peeling days

My sister in her pea-peeling days

My sister is now eligible for AARP membership and is an accomplished professional, but I often remember her as a child. She was born when I was eight-and-a-half, and I left home when she turned nine, so our common experiences were limited to those few years.

We were both picky eaters. I’ve written before about my aversion to cooked carrots. My sister’s food nemesis (one of them—she had many) was peas. I could tolerate peas just fine, so I never quite understood the fights she and our mother got into over those tiny green globes.

In fact, I never quite understood how she could fight with our mother. I feared confrontations with Mother above all else. Mother was small, but she could launch into angry diatribes that lasted an hour.

So I sat for an hour after dinner trying to choke down my cooked carrots.

My sister, by contrast, negotiated.

Given a spoonful of peas on her plate—not a very large spoonful, mind you—she would begin: “Do I have to eat them all?”

“Yes,” Mother said. That would have been the end of it for me, if I had managed to get the question out in the first place.

“How about if I eat ten of them?” My sister had no fear.

“All right. Ten.”

“I’m only five. I’ll eat five.”

Big sigh from Mother. “Eat five, then.”

“Can I peel them?”

And Mother agreed to the peeling.

So my sister mashed the peas, leaving skins behind and only eating the soft innards. Of course, half the innards stuck to the skins, so that portion got left behind also.

That’s all she had to eat to get dessert—a half-teaspoon of pea innards. (Well, there was the meat and potatoes also, but neither of us objected to those.)

Obviously, I thought this was unfair. I gagged on my full serving of carrots, while she only had to eat half a teaspoon of peas.

The difference, I think, was that I was the oldest child, and the one my parents practiced on. By the time my sister came along, they were tired. I think she’s the one that wore them out. Or at least wore them down.

This week she celebrates another birthday. We both can look back with amusement on those childhood moments, and perhaps we sometimes wish we were back there again.

It’s been a tough year for my siblings and me because we have lost both our parents. For me, the one good aspect of our loss has been getting to know my younger siblings better as adults. We’ve worked well together as we divided family heirlooms and disposed of the belongings we didn’t want. Our grief has brought us closer, and we can laugh now about the childhood antics and sibling rivalries of the past. At least I can.

What happened in your family that you think was unfair?

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  1. I was deceived by a bowl of mashed turnips that masqueraded as mashed potatoes, which was annoying. But turnips are pretty easy to avoid. Peas, on the other hand, I love – but my husband hates. When my kids were small he was fond of proclaiming that peas popped in his mouth like caterpillars. I’m not sure how he arrived at such certainty about eating caterpillars, but it was a graphic enough description that neither of my children will touch peas today either. The kids are grown and gone now, though, and any time my husband is not home for dinner, I enjoy my peas. Thanks for a fun post!

  2. I was hoping you’d let us what your professional sister does now. I wondered if her negotiating bent carried into her professional life.

  3. Uncertain of my age, but very early I became a Cinderella, never covered with soot, but caregiver for my three older non-step sisters who were very needy. Then, there was also, my older brother, who forced me to eat cooked spinach in the school cafeteria, smug in his authoritative control, the cleaning off of plates. I missed many a mid-day recess, but miss my siblings, as well.

  4. I was like you, Theresa. We were given food at dinner that we didn’t like but I choked it down. I’ll have to ask my youngest brother about this, I don’t really remember if he got away with not eating something or not. My uncle passed away last week so the family has come together for my aunt. I’ve been with relatives from out of state that I haven’t seen since the last funeral (sadly) and it’s been wonderful. So many memories and laughs among the tears.

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