Shopping is one topic that helps me know full well the difference between men and women.
When it comes to shopping, I feel inadequate in every way. I am often asked to do a little shopping by the lady of the house and it racks me with insecurity and feelings of chaos. If you see someone wandering aimlessly through the store without a sense of purpose, it’s me.
The other day, I was sent to the grocery store to pick up a few things. I had the list on my cell phone, as my wife just sent it to me over text. So, I have my car keys, I have my eyeglasses to see the text. OK, here I go.
Even though the list was relatively simple, there were still enough specifics on the list that I had to wander around, looking at the signs hanging above the aisles and wondering if I was getting the right brand, right price, correct quantity.
Stressful, I tell you.
So, I did what a lot of folks probably do to clear the mind: I stood in front of the ice cream for a bit. After that, I rolled my cart past the liquor aisle and thought about taking up a vice or something. I ended up in front of the Valentine candy.
Any time I hang out in front of a large variety of candy, I start to reminisce. It seems almost everything in life causes me to reminisce these days. How about you?
I’ve told you before of my longing for neighborhood grocery stores. Back in the day, D&J grocery was at the end of Epworth street and to the right on Elm. It was the last of the corner neighborhood groceries.
This little store had three aisles. As soon as you walked in, the little ice cream freezer was to the right. Around the corner on the outside walls were things only your parents wanted. If one were to go to the back wall, the Hostess rack was in front of you with all of your favorites.
However, the most frequented area of the store was directly across from the cashier: the candy aisle. The main aisle. As a kid, this area of the store seemed enormous to me. Every flavor of gum, every candy bar, every type of hard candy. It all seemed to be there.
When my brother was a baby, Mom sent me in to get an evening paper as my brother was in the car. I was around 4, but being an exceptional child in the eyes of my mother, I was completely capable of walking a few steps from the car to the store cashier, pay for a paper with one coin and come back to the car.
I am pretty sure papers were a dime back then (it was 1971) and my directions were, as I said, to go into the store, get a paper, and come back to the car. I felt very grown up and capable.
The man at the cash register asked me if there was anything else I needed and so of course, I said I wanted a candy bar behind me. As he was explaining to me that I didn’t have enough money, Mom swept in with my baby brother wrapped in a blanket and scooped up me and the paper.
Well shoot, the guy asked me if I wanted anything else. Didn’t he? I remember he was chuckling as we left and I found nothing funny at the time.
As we got older and walked home from school, all us kids would stop there and see what treats we could afford that day. Usually, we pooled our change and bought small purchases like a few pieces of this or a few pieces of that to share. If we had a particularly lucrative weekend taking empty glass bottles back to the laundromat or cleaning out the couch cushions, we may treat ourselves to a 15-cent ice cream bar and a bottled soda for a quarter.
Yep. Those were the prices.
The big scandal of our childhood was when the corner store started carrying the larger pieces of bubble gum, almost triple the size of the small ones we could buy for a couple of pennies. This larger mouthful cost one nickel. It almost choked you when you were chewing, but we basked in the luxury when we could afford it.
There were two cashiers who worked there: one mean, one nice. If the portly little lady with the rosy cheeks was there, she and her eagle eye were ready to pounce if we so much as thought about any funny business.
The other lady, a kindly woman, would speak to you and smile. When she was working there, it was a good visit. As she handed us our change, she always gave us the same closing phrase: “And I thank ya.”
Every time. You could count on it.