Late Night Grocery

October 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

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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.

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