My father used to shell peanuts on his drive up to Potter County, God’s Country, where our family hunting camp was. He was adept. Driving a big station wagon loaded with four active kids, and a comatose wife, drugged up with Dramamine to prevent car sickness, who was good for little but handing back peaches to us kids and then wet wash rags to clean our sticky fingers afterwards. Just don’t ask her to move her head and never turn around to settle the boys down. My oldest sister sat up front between the parents, the place of honor, as she was the parent’s favorite. I was stuck between my two younger brothers in the back, who attempted to swat each other across my body.
I don’t remember if Dad threw his shells out the window. They would have just came back and hit us in the back seat as we certainly didn’t have air conditioning and must have had the windows rolled down. We were headed to camp for our family vacation. Riding dirt bikes, hiking, campfires, swimming in the Lyman Run State Park lake, picking berries that my mom made into pies. No fancy vacation for our family, except for the drive to hell to Florida one AUGUST which was the absolutely the wrong time to go. I’ll take Potter County in the summer over Florida any time. It took me almost twenty-five years to want to return to that southern state, so scarred were we from that car ride.
Dad must have just created a landfill on the car floor with his empty peanut shells. I admire him for that, as he was a bit of a neat nick at home. But he loved his roasted peanuts and only got to enjoy them when we drove from our home in Pennside, outside Reading, up north, through the Port Clinton gap and past the Peanut Shop. I don’t remember eating them myself, or any of the kids. I imagine he offered but maybe not.
When my husband Todd held his chainsaw carving open house the other week, we kept a campfire going all day long for our guests, as the 80 carvings were situated in the woods around our log home and pond. Peanuts would be a good snack for our guests, I thought. Shelling them provides something to do with your hands while you chatted and, they take a long time to eat. You can throw the combustible shells into the fire or even on the ground in the woods. And they are so tasty- fresh, flavorful, and fun.
I stopped at The Port Clinton Peanut Shop and purchased a 5 pound bag. We had left overs after the home show and I have taken up a new little habit on my daily walks. I fill my pockets with peanuts. I shell them as I walk and pop the tasty nuggets into my mouth. I’ve been working hard getting my manuscript to where it needs to be by its May 1 deadline and I don’t always bother to make a decent lunch. Consequently, soon after I begin to hike, I realize that I have used up all my reserves and I am hungry and not enjoying my walk as much. But now I always take peanuts in my pockets and now I always feel like I am taking my dad along too.
My father has been dead for thirty five years maybe. A long time. I don’t think of him all that much and don’t usually talk to him. Until the peanuts came to be in my pockets. Now we chat on my walks and I tell him what has been going on. I feel him with me, in the woods, along my side as I break open the crunchy nuts. Eating roasted peanuts was a great joy in my father’s life and I have decided that they will be a part of my life now too. Eating them on my walks in the woods is a simple lovely pleasure. I have not felt, lately, that there has been an overabundance of joy in my life. There is no sadness in my life, however, and I am certainly not depressed and never have been. But we are still dealing with the empty nest bullshit, although it has gotten better. I have been very focused and hard at work on a manuscript, which is unusual for me to deprive myself of regular fun. It is almost over. Then we will up the fun factor. Full moon walks, dinner picnics by the river, attending the theatre, hopping on the river for an evening run. I see light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I have my pockets full of peanuts and my dad’s company to help me through.