I've shopped at the same grocery store my entire adult life. I can remember, in fact, when it was built, sometime during the 70s. How exciting it was to walk through for the first time with my friend Outdoor Girl and her mother. The store seemed huge compared to the tiny grocery stores we had always known. It had more than the traditional eight aisles and it sold stuff other than food. "Look at this! Socks! A grocery store that sells socks!" The idea stunned us.
By today's standards, Grocery Store Named After White Guy is small. When I walk in, I recognize the people who work there – and some of the customers as well. I like that. Grocery shopping can be a boring task, and chatting with people in my community makes the experience much more tolerable. Besides, talking to real people keeps me from talking to the grocery cart, a habit I got into during years of shopping with small children.
Last week, I bumped carts with a woman my age that I've met at a few times although I don't know her very well. She was choosing apples carefully, picking each one up for inspection. I was debating whether or not to buy butternut squash to make soup. No one else in my family really likes squash soup so I know if I make it, I will be eating it for a week.
So we had a relaxed conversation about how much candy to buy for trick-or-treaters (I buy none since we live on a deadend country road) and what kinds of food we like to make in the fall and where we were spending our Thanksgivings. We reminisced about how much more fun Halloween was when our kids were little. I told her that my oldest two kids were in college, and I was looking forward to having them home for a home month at Christmas.
As the conversation came to a close, and we began pushing our carts off in opposite directions, she paused and said in the most casual way. "Hey, say a prayer."
I stopped my cart. She fiddled with her purse and set it down in the empty childseat of her grocery cart.
"My son is in Iraq. He won't be home until March."
We looked at each other across a display of candied apples, and I nodded. Then she disappeared down the frozen food aisle.