Samuel recently brought home a school assignment with an odd question. His class is reading Anne of Green Gables, a book and series that Anna loved and read several times. His assignment included a question about the meaning of a phrase included in the first chapter:
With this Mrs. Rachel stepped out of the lane into the backyard of Green
Gables. Very green and neat and precise was that yard, set about on one
side with great patriarchal willows and the other with prim Lombardies.
Not a stray stick nor stone was to be seen, for Mrs. Rachel would have
seen it if there had been. Privately she was of the opinion that Marilla
Cuthbert swept that yard over as often as she swept her house. One could
have eaten a meal off the ground without overbrimming the proverbial
peck of dirt.
We had to find the meaning of the final phrase “the proverbial peck of dirt.” After a bit of looking we found out that the peck of dirt is the amount of dirt one is said to eat in a lifetime. It is the dirt that remains on food or is ingested in other ways. Its use as a proverb relates to the lifespan of a person. Once the peck of dirt has been eaten, a person’s life is said to be full and complete. A person who dies prematurely could be said to have died before he ate his peck of dirt.
As with everything else, my thoughts return to Anna. Did Anna eat her proverbial peck of dirt? Or did she die too soon? I had satisfied myself that Anna had led a complete life. My mother said the day after Anna died that Anna did more in her nine years than most adults do in their entire lives. But also, spiritually, Anna lived a full life. She knew she was a sinner. She knew the Lord who died to save her from her sin. She read through the Bible. She shared her faith with others. She loved people deeply.
And then I remembered back to an odd memory. When Anna was a toddler we could not stop her from eating dirt. One particular memory stands out. We were at the beach and we saw Anna near the water on all fours with her little rear end sticking up in the air. Her face on the ground. She sat up and turned around and we saw wet sand covering her face. Her teeth and mouth were full of the sticky goo. And she gave us a big smile before going down to dig up some more. I laughed to myself as I remembered that day and thought to myself, “Yes, Anna did eat her peck of dirt.”