Late Night Grocery

October 27, 2014 § 1 Comment


My mom visits me in strange ways. For no reason, out of the blue sometimes, she’s with me, watching, wanting to be in my life. She always liked to direct, rather than act. Sure, it’s psychological, but I feel her. In remembering her, somehow, I conjure her. Last week, in the grocery store, she was riding shotgun in the cart. I’m a practical person. I make a list, then I forget to bring the list, but it’s in my head. That night, my mom was making decisions. I let her have free rein.

First: In the produce aisle, we are not interested in actual vegetables—they’re so, well, green, but we want champagne dressing. My mom, you see, was an expert in condiments and was never very interested in vegetables, except the occasional artichoke with lots of melted butter, and maybe some Romaine. I tasted champagne dressing way before I ever tasted champagne. Bottles of mustard often fell out of her refrigerator in crazy defiance because they had been so confined in the side of her refrigerator door. I make Mom skip the horseradish mustard this time.

We want chocolate, of course, but that is both of us. She wants the one with chili in it. Nothing could be spicy enough. She wants to feel it. We skip the meat section. She always thought it was strange that I went vegetarian in high school, but I rarely saw her eat anything but a carb. We hit the chips and crackers because that’s dinner.

Ooh! The bargain basket! Here we find all kinds of treasures. It’s not that she wants the bargain–that’s me. But she points out the purple eye shadow for $1.99 and the bacon bowls. Yes. A bacon bowl is what you think it is, and it comes in a box. That’s why it’s in the bargain basket. I don’t even eat real bacon. But she wants it. Just to see. I pick it up, consider its comic value, then toss it back into the basket.

The wine aisle? She always had a special fondness for Stag’s Leap, or maybe it was Frog’s Leap—I can’t remember—doesn’t matter, I guess. She really wants the pricier one.

In the bread aisle, we see a man with a prosthetic leg, wearing shorts. I look away, but Mom pulls me back to look. There is a color photo printed on the plastic calf of the leg: a little girl with blonde curls, smiling. I can’t stop looking at it, even though I know this is rude. My mom would go talk to him, ask if the girl was his granddaughter. Why would he have a photo on it, if he didn’t want you to look?  she says. I walk past him, but now I can’t look away from the leg photo. I don’t ask the questions she’s prompting me to ask, I just get a loaf of whole wheat and leave the man to choose his bagels.

By the checkout, I really feel that Mom is there in the lonely late night Kroger. We unashamedly look at the gossip mags, consider the candy, buy a pumpkin on the way out the door. When I get to the car, though, she slips away into the night, no doubt on a hunt for wasabi mustard.



October 10, 2014 § 1 Comment



I’ve been thinking about the verb join. This is what Webster’s Online Dictionary says it means: a. to put or bring together so as to form a unit b. to connect by a line c. to put or bring into close association or relationship d. to engage in e. to come into the company of f. to associate oneself with.

I’ve never been a joiner in the sense of d, e, or f. I was born into a team of five sisters. That’s enough. I don’t need to commit to any other group. Jeff says I missed out by not playing team sports, but had I been a point guard, I doubt I would have ever passed the ball. I hated when the teacher made us do group work. If you grow up in a group, you learn to fend for yourself, to desire your own company. Squeaky wheels and all that. A friend who also grew up in a family of five says he doesn’t like to share things now because he shared everything growing up. I get that.

Jeff was born to be a camp counselor, a team captain. He really believes that more is merrier. I think it’s just more. Maybe it’s because he grew up with only one much older brother. Maybe it’s because he wanted a tribe to roam the woods with. I always wanted to set myself apart from my tribe, alone in the woods, until I joined him.

Lately, I’ve been joining people in the sense of a, b, and c above. I’ve been marrying my friends. Not that way. What I mean is I got to stand up in front of them and officiate twice this year. I’m a reverend, according to the Internet and the state of North Carolina, the state of Texas, too. My friend Lauren was a little worried her North Carolina wedding wouldn’t be legal, but she married a man, so when we turned in the license, the lady at the desk only asked if she wanted a copy.

It is a privilege for me to join my friends, to help seal their deal with each other in front of their friends and family. We come together today to join this man and this woman (or this woman and this woman or this man and this man). Coming together to join, to become a part of, to come into the company of, to associate with. I’m all for that, now that I know you can join someone and still be alone in the woods from time to time.

I can’t imagine my life without my group of college friends, friends from other parts of my life, the family Jeff and I have created. If I connect them all together, they are a web, a net—that still leaves me space to breathe. I can see how anyone would want that. I can’t imagine being told I couldn’t have it. I believe in joining, in unions, and I’m thankful that very soon in North Carolina and in most of the country, I’ll be able to join anyone who wants to come together so as to form a unit with anyone else.

Where Am I?

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