Have you ever been on a trip to the grocery store with your mother? I’ve recently developed a theory, and that theory is that everything I ever really needed to know about my mom, I learned at the grocery store.
Growing up, I was Mom’s second and middle child, but I was her #1 tagalong for trips to the grocery store. She and I would leave the rest of the family at home and head off to the store just a mile down the road, where she would park just about as far away from the door as possible. “It’s good for us to walk,” she’d say, but I knew she really just wanted to minimize the chances of someone else’s grocery cart careening into the side of our Chevy suburban.
Speaking of grocery carts, that’s actually Yankee-speak for what they’re really called according to my mom and any other self-respecting Southern woman: buggies. Yes, drive yourself to the Piggly-Wiggly and get a buggy to wheel around the store. This is South Carolina, my friends, and that’s just the way it is.
Mom taught me something important at the entrance of the store: don’t walk off with just any buggy. Test out a few, and for heaven’s sake make sure you don’t get stuck with one with a dead wheel. There’s no surer way to ruin a good grocery trip than dragging a dead-wheeled buggy up and down every aisle while onlookers gawk at you sympathetically.
Usually it was around the time that we’d selected the perfect buggy that mom would start digging through not her purse — again, that’s Yankee-speak — but her “pocketbook” for something that she almost never found: the grocery list. You see, the grocery list was usually back home on the kitchen counter, since Mom was then and still is as sharp as a tack, but not even slightly organized. “Oh well,” she’d say, and I knew that meant we were about to peruse the store for two hours, randomly spotting items we probably needed back at home.
I usually didn’t mind, because Mom managed to make the grocery store a fun place for a child, filled with information, choices and lessons about money. She taught me to read nutrition labels, check expiration dates and compare prices so well that I think I, at the age of 11, probably would have made a good contestant on “The Price is Right.”
I’m an over-organized, checklist type of person myself, so sometimes it amazes me that I am my mother’s daughter. To this day, you can drop Mom off at a store to pick up hamburger buns and she’ll come out 45 minutes later with paper plates, a new flavor of barbecue chips, a 12-pack of Coke Zero and a copy of “Southern Living.”
“Where are the hamburger buns?” you’ll ask as she returns to the car. Silence will momentarily befall her. “I’ll be right back,” she’ll say, turning to head back into the store for the long-forgotten hamburger buns. You can’t help but love her, and at this point, I’d frankly be disappointed if she were to change.
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I’ve been thinking of those grocery trips with Mom, and how much our whole family has teased her over the years about always forgetting the grocery list, how long she takes in the store, and how she always comes home with something she didn’t exactly set out to buy.
And you know what? All I can think is how lucky I am: to have a mom who took up that kind of time with me, who taught me all about the dreaded dead-wheeled buggy, who has never let a list determine her steps nor the course of her life, and who always takes just as much time as she needs, because what exactly is the rush?