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'Peas and Resolutions' - A Commentary

By Tom Dodge, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – Whatever happened to New Year's resolutions? People nowadays prefer just to eat peas and be done with it. I still make resolutions but I think that's just another indication of my being always behind the times. New Year's is a great time of year. Oh the joy and excitement of beginnings! Oh the hope that issues from enumerating these pledges of betterment! The New Year is represented in art as a freshly birthed baby and symbolic of all things bright and unsullied. A first house, a first new car, a first love, a first marriage. For sports addicts, there's the euphoria of the first kick-off of a Super Bowl game, a tradition of the New Year.

It's the time for rosy notions about life. We can look at the old Buick in the driveway and visualize a new Mercedes soon in its place. Last year's bad grades are forgotten; this year it will be only straight A's. Unemployment was last year; the dream job is just around the corner.

This year I will go see my mother more often. Praise more, blame less. Experiment, after 43 years of wedlock, with the reportedly proven techniques of fireplace, candlelight and roses.

I have even resolved to become more sociable, go to parties - if by chance I should get invited. I will learn to fit in with others. I will do this by endeavoring to watch Oprah, Julia Roberts movies, sit-coms, commercials, football games, the Academy Awards. I will go to the mall and stare at Thomas Kinkade prints until I see their greatness, an aspect that has so far eluded me.

But making resolutions is itself ironically counter to the new age. I know of no one else who still makes them. No one talks about them anymore. Again, resolutions have been replaced in the national consciousness by the ritual of eating black-eyed peas.

I assume that the pea cartel has a part in this but why has everyone been so willing to switch traditions?

Here's the gist of what people have told me. They're tired of the guilt that accrues from unaccomplished goals. With peas you don't have to do anything. It's just luck. Resolutions mean work. Why work to improve your life when you can just eat peas and wait for the luck to kick in? They're even free at Luby's.

It's not that I'm anti-peas. My grandmother always insisted I eat them on New Year's Day. She even called long-distance to remind me. Her life was so tough as a farm wife during the Depression that all she had was the prospect of luck. But the comparative
prosperity of most people nowadays has all but erased from national memory the hard life of their ancestors.

We need, it seems to me, not luck but improvement as a people and as a society. Improving, say the philosophers and ministers, requires as much effort of thought as action.

Ironically, this kind of thought is usually a result of hardship. Maybe if we had to raise our own peas, rather than get them free at Luby's, we could begin to appreciate the kind of luck our ancestors hoped for.


Tom Dodge is a writer from Midlothian.