I love grocery shopping. I didn’t always. Marriage changed that. My mom told me that in the first years of my parent’s marriage, their favorite activity was heading to the grocery store, shopping together. They were college kids then; they had no extra spending money. It’s amazing how aisles and aisles of food can ignite your imagination, your hope for the future, the ideas of new possibilities right around the corner.
‘Honey, look at these avocados!’ I imagine my mom saying to my dad with my older brother sitting in the front of the grocery cart. ‘Wouldn’t guacamole be amazing?!’ And that spurs the thought of dip and chips and sitting close on the couch laughing at some comedy on TV – joy at the end of the day.
‘Do you think he’d like raisin bread?’ I imagine my dad saying, his young eyes lighting up. ‘Has he even tried bread yet?’ And then my dad thinks of the other foods his infant son has never tried, never even seen, and then the idea of a future full of new foods shoots through my dad’s imagination like a shooting star, faint, but clear for a minute, and beautiful.
I thought of my parents at the grocery store when my husband and I moved close to one. The Co-op down the street is full of food brought into the store with thought and intention. When you walk the aisles, the organic vegetables, the creamed honey, the bins of cashews and pecans, the little slabs of fruit leather… each little thing is a gift to simply marvel at. Where did it come from? Who’s idea was this? What does it mean for these people that here I am now looking at it, thinking it’s beautiful… or at least very interesting? And what little, wonderful moments await me in the future when I get to eat these delightful foods?
Aaaah, the rich minutes of drinking coffee in the morning with macadamia nut creamer. Oh, how sweetly a spray of juice leaps from a clementine when peeled on a summer afternoon while I sit on a picnic blanket on the lawn. What love is offered through looks and giggles as we wrangle the sweet potato noodles from the bowl to our mouths. And how my heart swells when my husband tells me the rosemary chicken is so perfectly roasted. I feel all of the future moments at the grocery store, like little sparks, if I’m paying attention.
Before our baby was born, I sometimes went grocery shopping just to get a warm drink and call people I love. Latte in hand and mostly empty cart in front of me, I would talk on the phone for an hour, maybe two, not shopping, but simply strolling, picking up products, considering them, putting them down. Half intentioned discovery, stories of food and family and business and farms and life surrounding me on a every shelf, my sister and I laughing about something she hear from a friend.
Now, I have a baby. I have never loved grocery shopping more. It’s like taking an alien to a museum about humans. She knows nothing of this planet. She has literally never been anywhere like this before. “Beee boooo neee gnuuuuuu,” she says.
I take an pear from the pile in the produce section. “This… is a pear,” I say. She looks up at me, recognizing that I am speaking to her, that there is new information. She sees I am trying to hand her an object. She smiles.
I hand her the pear. She holds it, feels the weight. “It’s a pear,” I say, a bit slowly. Sometimes she squeals with a giggle. I hold up a paper bag. “Can you help me put it in the bag?” She lifts it over the brown paper edge and drops it.
“This is creamer,” I tell her, handing her a cold, tiny box. “I put creamer in my coffee in the morning. This one is made out of nuts,” I say. She is staring at the box in her lap. “I don’t like dairy, and I’m not sure dairy agrees with most people’s tummies, so we buy a creamer for our coffee made from nuts.”
She has never been to earth, my daughter. She knows nothing about alternative milks. She could not point out a cooked chicken breast from a raw one. She has no ability right now to even imagine kombucha or taco night or naan. She has never been to earth. I feel like Elliot in E.T. telling the extra-terrestrial, “These are my toys… this is Skreedo… this is Hammerhead… this is Walrus man…”
So now, I walk through the store, and I show my little baby everything. We say hi to the talking heads behind the meat counter who wish us a great day after handing us chicken sausages. We marvel together at red curry paste and both of us think, “What in the world could this be?” I deliver each apple into her hands for her careful consideration before she drops them in the bag. We laugh. We marvel. We glide from aisle to aisle, discovering.