• One Minnesota Writer

Buying Groceries on a Monday Evening

Does this happen to you? You go into the grocery store, the most mundane of tasks that all of us have to do. Once inside, the music is soothing, the produce looks decent, the people are generally quiet. Suddenly, a feeling of gratitude wells up; you are excruciatingly aware how lucky you are to come into this store, pick out food, purchase it, take it home and eat it.

Two days ago, on what was a very gray November Monday, I wasn’t particularly distressed about anything. I began the week the way I have for the past two months: with physical therapy to regain strength after a knee injury coupled with a bout of sciatica knocked me on my ass. The therapy is going well, something I am thankful for every day. Kicking off my week with the reminder that I have to work for my good health isn’t a bad thing at all.

Like most Mondays, this Monday was nothing particularly outstanding. After therapy, there were tasks to do, emails to read, a refrigerator to clean. And there was grocery shopping to be done; I’d been ignoring it for the most part since we said goodbye to Truffles the doxie the week before last. I’m usually very good at planning out a list of things we need and doing a big shopping trip every week or two. But, after cleaning our refrigerator, I saw just how low we were on staple items, on vegetables, and was shocked that my jar of yeast pretty much expired six months ago. Time to shake off my grocery-shopping lethargy.

I headed out around 4:30 p.m., just as our November skies were darkening. Rush hour traffic was in full force. This late-day traffic doesn’t bother me; there’s something I like about shopping at the end of the day when so many others are picking up items for dinner. There’s a mutual feeling of gathering supplies, of making sure we all have what we need. Sometimes someone gets impatient, but that’s just the way it goes.

When I got out of my car in the store parking lot, I put on my mask and grabbed my shopping bags. Inside the store, there was that ever-present soothing music. There was a display of flowers right near the door, followed by a long counter of cheeses from all over the world. I am privileged to be shopping in this particular store, with its shelves that are usually well-stocked and its choices that sometimes feel dazzling. Throughout the pandemic, I have usually been able to find what I need here.

On this day, as I pushed my cart through the produce and selected gorgeous green broccoli, clean white cauliflower, nearly perfect gala apples, and lovely golden squash, I felt just a bit choked up. Acknowledging that I am privileged doesn’t even begin to cover it. In the midst of a world that often feels like it’s on the brink of utterly imploding, I can go to my favorite grocery store and pick out food that will not only nourish my body, but also my psyche. I can share it with my partner, with my kids, with my friends. It has been years since I’ve had to worry too much about whether my paycheck will cover this week’s groceries - though I haven’t forgotten what that felt like. I haven’t forgotten how it felt to have a cashier tally up my bill and realize I couldn’t cover it, forcing me to put something back while my kid dangled his feet from the grocery cart seat. It always embarrassed me when I miscalculated in this way.

Being able to grocery shop now without constantly running a tally in my head is a comforting thing. An amazing thing. Not that I don’t pay attention; I do. I’m keenly aware everything could change at any moment; we could lose what we have in a flash. But on this Monday evening, there was immense gratitude. And a very deep calm, as if an ordinary grocery store had morphed into the most pleasing place in the world. I felt such contentment as I got food for our refrigerator, waited while the cashier struggled to find the right bar codes for my produce, watched the bagger carefully pack everything into my two bags so that they were fairly even in weight. This calm stayed with me as I walked outside with my bags, noticed the bright coral streaks of clouds as the sunset. It filled me as I drove toward home, the waxing moon low in the eastern sky, taillights red in front of me as cars slowed for turns. Such an ordinary task. Such a cozy feeling that came of it.

I thought about how the pandemic has had its part in this reaction of mine to the beauty of an ordinary thing. Many are sick of staying home, of doing things differently than pre-pandemic, but not me. To find the good in doing simple grocery shopping, or simple cooking, or listening more closely to the local jazz station hasn’t emphasized any constriction of our lives right now. Rather, the spotlight shines brighter on the small, good things we have.

Like a good grocery store. Like a view of the waxing moon, the waning sunset, and the warmth of home. Like knowing we have enough today, in this moment.

image courtesy of Wix Media

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