September 01, 2009

Grandma's Grocery Store

I suspect that when my parents read this, they’re going to scold me. After all, I just moved into a new apartment and the vast majority of my stuff is still in boxes.

They might have point. After all, those boxes aren’t going to unpack themselves. However, I can only unpack just so many boxes before I go stark raving mad.

In any case, between the move and some recent work travel that's taken me to Minneapolis and Raleigh for days at a time, I haven’t had much time to make anything more complicated than a faux quesadilla cooked in the toaster oven. Heck, I almost didn’t have enough time to pack before the movers arrived.

Since I haven’t made a lick of progress toward accomplishing my goal of cooking from all of my cookbooks before the end of the year recently, I thought I’d take a moment to share with you one of the reasons why I’m so obsessed with all things food.

I’ll start by telling you that one of my early memories is of me toddling around my Grandma Mary Lou’s grocery store. This is a very, very vague memory from my childhood. I have no recollection of what I was doing exactly, but I’m willing to bet this “memory” is actually an amalgam of several memories of playing in the store or shopping for groceries with my mom or even just stopping by for a visit.

When I was little bit older, Grandma Mary Lou moved her store to a new location. The new store I remember vividly. I spent hours and hours there. I have so many good memories of the time I spent there and the freedom of being able to go into just about any room, aisle or cubby. Although Grandma Mary Lou and Cathy, the store’s butcher, were very serious about being careful around the butcher block area. There was no fooling around there.

I’m sure when I was little, I must have been underfoot a lot. I played silly pranks, played hide and seek with my brother in the back of the store (and the front, if I'm being honest), and would try to help stock shelves.

As I got older though, I did do some actual work around the store. I bagged groceries. Stocked shelves. Rang up customers. Helped make pizzas for the deli. Sorted coupons while watching Bob Barker on the “Price is Right.” (And no, I didn't purposely volunteer to sort coupons at the exact time that "Price is Right" came one. That was merely a coincidence. I swear. No, really, I promise. Pure coincidence.)

In return, Grandma Mary Lou paid me in comic books I read while sitting on bags of dog food, ice cream treats, candy and hugs. And then there was the end-of-summer, back-to-school shopping spree. My brand-spanking new Trapper Keeper and big, fancy box of Crayolas with a built-in sharpener were my pride and joy.

While some kids might have resented working in their family’s business, I never really thought twice about it. For me, it was a fun way to spend time with my grandma. There was also the side benefit of being able to talk and talk and talk with goodness only knows how many people. That was nice.

Plus, without even realizing it, it was a lesson in how important a grocery store can be to a community. The town in which Grandma Mary Lou lives isn’t that big and a lot of folks live out in the country on their farms and ranches. Coming into town to go grocery shopping was a big commitment. I know. When I was little, I lived with my family out on our farm, which was about 20 or 30 minutes outside of town. In an area like that, Grandma Mary Lou’s store was a place where people would run into one another, visit for a bit and share news and gossip.

Grandma Mary Lou sold the store quite some time ago. The first time I went to the store with her after the sale was weird. I wasn’t allowed to go in the back or behind the deli counter. I sure as heck couldn't get an ice cream out of the freezer for free either.

One thing hasn’t changed much though. Folks still have to go to the grocery store and you’re sure to run into folks you know while you’re there – even if you’re like me and you only get back to visit and share news and gossip just every once in a while.

(Note: I published this Aug. 30 originally, but edited it a bit on Sept. 1.)


Anonymous said...

I loved your story. My grandfather owned a garage and my grandparents lived above it. Small town, middle of nowhere, Colorado. Life was simpler and folks took time to share their lives. Oh my, aren't memories precious!

Steff Childs said...

My Poppy (great grandfather) owned a garage as well. He'd take my brother with him from time to time, and I remember my brother coming home covered in grease and happy as all get out. Course, I'm thinking the donuts Poppy had on hand didn't hurt things much.

Anonymous said...

Ah Steff,
I loved the grocery store too. Course I think your grandma Mary Lou is pretty special, since she is my big sister. I would sometimes to go to the store, Kristi of course got free stuff also, your grandpa would let her get a little brown sack and fill it up with candy, but then she couldn't figure out why she couldn't do that when we went to another store. That's a great tribute to your grandma-she's a special lady.