Monday, June 16, 2008

The power of the grocery store

We spend our lives at the grocery store. It seems we’re always saying, in exhausted tones, “I’m dashing to the grocery store,” and “I’ve got to do the grocery shopping.” It becomes a bore and a chore.

But with my “children” aged 16 and 18, on the cusp of leaving home for college, i.e. forever, I have come to understand that “going to the super” for me, means LIFE. It means: I have a family to take care of, people who are relying on me, I am loved and needed. These days, I cherish going to the grocery, because I understand my days as a Mothering Mom are numbered.

I will soon be entering years of shopping just for me, with no particular urgency, because it will not be a tragedy if I dine on a cup of tea and a tomato sandwich. (One of my favorite things to eat.)

After years of the forced march of grocery shopping, I now recognize that some of my happiest moments have been spent in supermarkets, thinking of what dish to delight my children with, or what I can get away with tonight for dinner that's easy. My kids have always loved it whenI pull into the driveway after my grocery shop. They cheerfully dash out to bring in the groceries, appraising what I’ve bought. "She got cookies!" Nina yells. Pablo is thrilled to discover a favorite hunk of cheese and some great cold cuts that they will eat, Tony Soprano style, standing in front of the fridge, slice by slice.

I love to watch people in the grocery store. I see the rhythm of daily life: exhausted Mothers wondering what to cook, power Mothers with their meticulously planned lists. A young woman studys a can of lentil soup. The white haired couple puts a box of Social Tea biscuits in their cart. A father buys potato chips and charcoal, and two young men at the deli, buy fried chicken, ready to eat.

I think of the stages of my grocery life. First there were the years of mountains of formula, baby food and diapers. Then I shopped first with one child and then the second, sitting in the cart’s seat, kissing and talking to them as I put things into the cart, delighting them with a piece of cheese from the deli lady. I recall the years of heavy entertaining which required “the big shops.” Then, when my Father was old and frail, I roamed the aisles, looking for soft foods to tempt him: donuts, puddings and jellos, baby food (again), and diapers (adult size this time).

My mother’s last trip outside her home was to the grocery store. She wanted to get out of the house and drive somewhere close. So she went to Kings. She told me how she enjoyed the air conditioning, and how nice everything looked, so colorful and bright. She was dying, but she smelled life in the grocery store.

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