It’s almost comical at this point, but every year, my mother-in-law gives me pistachios for Christmas. I don’t know if I ever told her that I liked pistachios. I do, but maybe not enough to advertise it.
A hundred years ago, people up north would get oranges for each other because fruit in the winter was more of a novelty, so I thought maybe it was one of those things for her. I never asked why, just accepted with gratitude, said, “What I always wanted!” with great cheer, and we went about our day.
And I am grateful, don’t get me wrong. However, if I were to buy a bag of pistachios for myself, I would always spring for the shelled variety. The ones I receive for Christmas are still in their shells.
No problem, though; I know how to shell.
After the holidays died down, I would inevitably be at the table shelling pistachios, making two small piles—one of the nuts and one of the shells.
When my son turned four, he would come by and watch me shelling away, grab some nuts from the shelled pile, and wander off.
Later, once the pile of shelled pistachios became large enough, he would make another round and take his cut of my earnings.
Now I imagine if anyone else I knew were to brazenly pilfer from my hoard, the second time they reached their hand to my pistachio pile, they would be coming back with a stump.
But it didn’t even occur to me to think that about my son. I was happy to provide. Delighted even.
I was glad he left a little bit and didn’t take everything when he swooped by. I would pop the few remaining in my mouth and get back to shelling, knowing that he would be back soon and I should be ready for him.
The sore fingers. The time spent sitting and shelling. It was all worth it.
In the end, I think that might be the essence of fatherhood.