Canned peas and ham, Sam I Am

I do not like canned peas, Sam I am. I do not like them, Sam oh Sam.

Nothing good can come from a can of peas.
Let me start with the babysitter.

I was never fond of going to the babysitter. It was more than just being away from home. Being a child was powerless enough, let alone watching the people in charge of your life handing over that power to a stranger that doesn’t have the same emotional investment in your happiness. That, and it just plain sucks.

But each morning my sister and I were handed off like a prisoner exchange, imprisonment before sunrise, parole just after sunset.

We were never allowed on the furniture. From the time we were dropped off my sister and I lived on the floor: watched TV on the floor, colored in coloring books on the floor, took naps on the floor and—yes—took our meals sitting on the floor.

We sat nestled in the corner of the kitchen as our meals were handed down to us in bowls. The utensils were collected immediately so there wouldn’t be time to grind them into shivs. We’d wolf down the food and if one of us got too close to the other we’d cover our bowls with our bodies, bare our incisors and growl just a bit.

One particular heinous meal was a bowl of canned peas “seasoned” with one small chunk of token meat. I experimented with various methods to make the meal more palatable. I’d try eating the meat first to trick my taste buds into thinking that what was to follow was a tasty feast as well. Or, I’d try saving the meat morsel for last as a reward for getting the slimy, squishy peas down my throat. But no matter what method I tried (and there were several) it never ever tempered the gag factor. Face it, canned peas possess nothing more than the color and texture of vomit. And very few things can trick the mind into thinking THAT is going to be a tasty meal.

So I was usually left to scooping up some peas, taking a deep breath, throwing back my head and letting it slide down my throat like the sodden insides of a clam. Then it was gag, rinse, repeat.

“Why didn’t you ever say anything?” my kids invariably ask when I regale the saga.

“Oh, I don’t know. Back then we were raised with a strange concept called OBEDIENCE. You should try it some time.”

“Well, I would have said something,” replies the pint-sized revolutionary with a sniff.

Even after cuffing my kid for insolence I do admit I had to sit back and reflect on those wise words for this tale does have a happy ending.

On one auspicious day a miracle occurred. There was an angel looking out for me, and I felt that finally God was on my side. For as I sat there, staring at the peas, wondering if I had yet again chosen the wrong eating method by consuming the fleshy part first, I wondered how I was going to get through even one more spoonful. I forcibly shoved the peas in my mouth and commenced gagging. It was the same routine I’d been doing day in and day out for as long as we’d been in confinement.

But this time something was different. Something had shifted in my universe and my life would never be the same after that.

My babysitter finally caught me dry heaving. There was now a witness.

“You don’t like it?” I was shocked. She was genuinely concerned. She’d had no idea!

All I had to do now was speak up, tell her just how hellacious the peas were, how my heart pounded with each spoonful and the utensil itself felt like lead. I could describe the nightmares I’d have each night I went home, wondering how I would get through another day of trying to swallow yet another ration of what looked like frog’s fallopian tubes.

But instead I did what any 5 year old would successfully do in that situation. I panicked.

Remember that scene in A Christmas Story where the kid really wanted a Red Rider BB Gun? He’d dreamt and schemed and envisioned just how he could pull off getting a BB gun for Christmas. When he finally got the chance to appeal to a higher authority something horrible happened. As soon as he was plopped on Santa’s lap his mind went blank. When Santa suggested a football for Christmas the kid—still dazed—nodded in the affirmative. The opportunity of a life time and he was blowing it!

I froze. I turned to my sister sitting next to me, pleading with my eyes. Could she help? Would she help? She stared at me, bowl and spoon to mouth in mid shovel. She loved the stuff and considered my antics overly dramatic and infantile. But she saw the panic swimming in my eyes and in a weak moment decided to shew mercy me.

You see, my sister had a much better way of communicating with people than I. I don’t know if it was her blonde hair, blue eyes, perfectly straight teeth, bubbling personality, or just the fact that she didn’t always act like she just missed her last dose of Ritalin, but people seemed to be more comfortable around her. They actually liked her. So I was more than relieved to let her take over. She would be able to explain things in a much better way than I ever could. She would fix things.

She turned to our caretaker and—in a proud moment of eloquence and quaint articulation—shook her head. “No.”

I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was finally out. I—did—not—like—canned—peas. Our keeper took the bowl from my hand and never served the pale green mess again.

Was it mercy, my sister’s clear and coherent communication, or was it just preventing a clean up on aisle 6? I don’t know. But . . .

I do not like canned peas, Sam I am. I do not like them, Sam oh Sam.

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