Maybe it’s the bright, cheerful lights, or the wide-open, tiled space with soothing music from my teens that melds with my footsteps in sweet syncopation, fast or slow. It could be the sweet scent of the Macintosh apple fritters in the bakery oven that mixes with the brightly-lit air, or the promise of tomorrow that is made by the date on the red-capped milk. Either way, I just love grocery stores.
In Western Massachusetts, Big Y was my store until COVID hit and we learned about this place called Whole Foods sold through Amazon. Although this strays quietly from my store tour up above, she still fits. I clicked “add to cart” for many items like Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food and unbleached flour if they had it in stock. We would hide and listen for them open the door to the front porch. After they left we would look out the window on the door and see the neatly lined-up paper grocery bags with labels like “bread” and “frozen.”
(Remember when there was a shortage and we all made bread? I do still make bread. As a matter of that specific fact, there is sourdough starter, whom I’ve not named yet, creeping up to room temperature on my pie safe in the kitchen, waiting to be kneaded, baked, then toasted and served with hot and salty over-medium eggs.)
I love that prickling chill of the air conditioner that hits my shoulders on an August day in the most muggy Eastern North Carolina when the doors violently whoosh open and welcome me, and how the warmth hits my skin once again when I walk out with a cart full of fresh, yellow corn, sesame-seed burger buns, and multi-colored freeze pops. In January, it is the opposite sameness, but just as luxurious.
Grocery stores welcome us to the seasons, sometimes too fast like candy corn in July or candy canes in October, but they do just the same. They remind us there is something next, something to look forward to whether it’s macaroni and cheese with Ritz crackers and butter on Wednesday for dinner, or pressed cookies with a little extra almond extract for Christmas.
No nods are given to grocery stores. No odes or novels or love. No tales of your favorite cashier who knows your life story, and people don’t generally wear merch from Publix or Lowe’s Foods. They are so part of our lives, though, and the people who work there we see once or twice a week and sometimes for years and years.
For me, though, they are a place of peace and planning. A place I’ve been to with my Nana and Roger. They’re really part of our history, and the people who work there are pretty freaking important. I mean, what would we have done without them all during the heaviest months of the pandemic?
Today, my slow nod is aimed at grocery store workers. Thank you.