December 4, 2023
On October 13 I posted this image to Facebook. I had asked Ron to make a list of things we need. He tore a sheet off this list paper I got in Vermont. On my way in to the store, I passed a woman who was saying into her phone that there was only one cashier lane open. “One fucking lane!” We smiled at each other. It was a Friday night in these uncertain, turbulent times.
Ever since we were married (forty years now), Ron has made a game of using “creative” spelling for internal (family) communications. When he emails our daughter, whose field hockey number was 11, he addresses her as “Leben.” Our check register contains so many variations on the place where he often gets gas (“Hickenlooper,” “Flickenflager,”) that one time when I needed to know the actual name, I couldn’t remember it. (It’s Hugendubler.) There is usually a list pad hanging from a magnet on the refrigerator door for anyone to see, and he adds to it from time to time. My sister, a speech and language therapist, once asked, quietly, if he had a diagnosed disability. He doesn’t. He just thinks it’s funny.
The holidays put a special emphasis on food. Many of us bake more, try new recipes, attempt to recreate the tastes and textures of the past. I made a commitment at the beginning of November to try to make grocery shopping a spiritual experience, to remember the poor, and to hold in positive thought the people I’d be encountering in the supermarket, especially the employees. I begin with my food shopping mantra:
I can afford to walk into this grocery store and buy anything that I want.
I can walk into this grocery store.
I created that a few years ago when parking, even for the placarded spots, became problematic for everyone when the Giant moved to a spacious new store with a badly designed parking lot. It’s an expression of the great privilege that I enjoy as a financially secure white suburban retiree who has learned to tailor her wants to the circumstances at hand (use of BOGO offers, twofers, and Bonus Buys).
A fiction writer is always listening. In my recent visits to the Giant, I’ve become aware of parents trying to explain economic realities to young children (“I can’t use my card there,” said a woman whose child wanted to go to a pizza restaurant rather than consume the inferior store brand frozen thing), nutrition facts (“That’s nothing but sugar!”) and abusive complaints about the quantities available of some preferred item to an employee least likely to be able to help. I’m trying to work some of these into my fiction and longer nonfiction.
I chose the title of this piece as a reference to a good practice to adopt this season. Check your list twice against what’s in the pantry, lest you find yourself with three jars of dill weed but only two drops of vanilla extract.
(The picture didn’t display with the clarity I thought it would. Ron’s notations read: “Dubble Dunker, grapes, mex beenz and ryss, mannaize, sub, wraps, slysst ham, gellee (grape)”)