While at the grocery store the other day, I came upon a mother shopping with her children. The younger of her children was driving the buggy, or should I say, a large plastic red car complete with steering wheel that doubles as a shopping cart. He seemed to be entertained as he made his way through the aisle with one hand on the steering wheel and the other one grabbing everything at his eye level. I smiled as I passed them.
As I continued to shop, my mind traveled back to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store in the neighborhood where I grew up. There were no fancy car-themed buggies, but shopping with my mom was very similar to what I had just witnessed. Mother usually picked up a small box of animal shaped cookies for my sister and me to enjoy while she shopped. Bickering wasn’t allowed while Mother was on a calculated mission through the store with her grocery list scribbled on the back of a used envelope.
When we were old enough to reach the buggy’s handle and were behaving, Mother would allow one of us to navigate the shopping cart behind her as she searched diligently for the items she needed. My sister is older than me so she always got to push the buggy first. I couldn’t wait until I was finally tall enough myself. One advantage to being second was that I got a bird’s eye view of what to do and not do pertaining to shopping cart pushing.
One day I was pointing out something to my sister. She averted her eyes for a split second and, not realizing Mother had come to an abrupt stop, plowed right into her with the buggy. I laughed. Mother certainly didn’t. We were both punished. Mother often used this dual form of punishment with us because that way she was sure she got the right one. I only ran into the back of Mother’s legs one or two times but I knew what to expect when I did. “Mark, you better give your heart to God because the rest of you belongs to me!” Mother would yell wiping a tear from her eye.
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As we matured, Mother allowed me and my sister to split up on little missions to speed up the shopping process. “Mark, go straight to the dairy department and get a gallon of milk,” Mother would say. Sometimes on my big boy missions, I would opt to veer off course to see the toy section or browse through the comic books. One time I stopped by the produce department and passed some beautiful, green grapes. I love green grapes so I plucked one and ate it. The manager of the produce department stopped and reprimanded me. I ran back to Mother with the hopes that he wouldn’t follow. To this very day, I think of that incident every single time I purchase grapes.
At the register, Mother would allow us to place the things from the buggy on the conveyor belt if we grouped cold things together, and separated the canned goods from the bread and bananas. We knew we were ready to leave once the square container of ice cream was placed snugly in a special paper bag to prevent it from melting on the way home.
My mind continued to wander back in time as I finished shopping. I was quickly jolted back to current time when the cashier loudly announced my total for the third time. I looked around and apologized to the people behind me but they didn’t seem amused with my trip down memory lane. Before taking my groceries, I also glanced over my shoulder one last time. I had to make sure that produce man from all those years ago wasn’t chasing me. It’s funny, no matter how old you are, some things stay with you forever.
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