When I get back from vacation, I start the ‘wash’ and then go to the grocery store. As you know, strange things happen at my grocery store. Other people tell me they go without incident, except one friend who was asked on a date not once but twice in the cheese department! She’s a lady of a certain age as I am- so that was remarkable. I have not experienced that yet, however- today’s trip was interesting as usual. Since there was barely anyone in the store, I was sure this would be one of those rare, unremarkable trips.
I was trying to pick out some bananas when someone came up behind me and said- ‘I bought bananas last time and they were tasteless.’ I smiled and said ‘Well you know, we have to have our bananas- for cereal or maybe a banana pudding.’ ‘If you’re talking banana pudding, they might work, but the Granny Smith apples have more taste. I pushed off thinking how tasteless it was to make comments over what I was buying! I got over to the floral department- nice lady there. ‘How are you?’ Oh fine, how are you? ‘I’m burning up!’ Really? it feels pretty cool in here to me. ‘Well, trying to work under these heat lamps is about to put me under the cooler!’ Honey, I’m sorry…have you told management?
And by the way, while you’re at it can you tell them they are out of Diet Rites? I have to get those because I’m allergic to aspartame and they don’t have any Diet Rites. ‘Allergic to aspertame?’ Yes. A guy from another cola company who was stocking- said, ‘Diet Rites don’t have aspartame? I’m allergic to it too.’ The flustered floral department lady said ‘What happens to y’all?’ Cola man said, ‘It makes my lips go numb.’ I am astounded. ‘It just causes some tingling and numbness but I’ve never had my lips go numb.’ He swore it did. Well, who am I to judge? ‘ I used to drink these’ and pointed to an offender. He said, ‘I’ll tell you what happened to the mother of a friend of mine. She loved those, she opened a can and something hit her lips and it was a tiny mouse!’ What?!?!? ‘Yep, they wanted to settle out of court for millions- but she told ’em she’d take 2 million and a case of those colas per month for the rest of her life!’ I shook my head and thought how brave that woman was, to put her life on the line every single time she popped a can. I shoved off thinking that was my ‘incident’ of the day…no, wrong.
The floral department lady called out to me, ‘Camellia?’- ‘Yes?’ ‘Did you know that Granny Smith died?’ ‘I’m not sure I know who you’re talking about but I sure am sorry to hear it.’ ‘Well she lives over on Shanghai Road and worked as an OB/GYN nurse for …oh a long time.’ Really? ‘Yes, there will be a mob tonight at the funeral home, she had 47 great grandchildren.’ Now, how old was this delivery room nurse? ‘She was 94, had a good long life.’ Yes, she did. ‘And a memory like a top until the last few years, knew the names of every single one of those great grandchildren.’ Now, isn’t that something? But she wasn’t through, told me who was related by marriage to the Nurse…my ankles were twitching thinking about those tiny mice floating around in those diet colas.
She had more to relate and had obviously recovered from the heat lamps. She started telling me about another lady who was on her deathbed. ‘Yes, two days ago, called the family in and told them she had about 24 hours to live.’ Her daughters were horrified because for one thing- this lady is one of the best cooks in the county and they just knew she was taking her recipe for pound cake, egg custard pie and coconut cake to her grave, among other things. She never wrote anything down or if she did, there was always a critical ingredient missing. ‘But she’s lingering on, not dead yet…and the food! oh my when word got out that she was dying- offers to make devilled eggs, fresh green beans, squash casserole- the Sunday School class was providing the ham- estimates of how many to feed went out and paper products, cutlery, cups, sweet tea, coffee- then, giggles and exclamations from the floral department about the baker on her deathbed- ‘Maybe the offers of food at her wake had kept her hanging on.’ I wondered myself if the baker was waiting to hear if someone would dare bring a custard pie or a coconut cake to rival hers. ‘The phone lines are hot with arrangements- she was still hanging on but it wouldn’t be long…she’d been ready to ‘go’ ever since her husband had up and died 8 years before. Was never the same. Baked a dozen cakes and two dozen pies the night her husband died-for his wake. It seemed to calm her nerves.’ In the South, when someone dies, we can put on a funeral, is all I can say.
I thought-I’m not encouraging this…’Well which funeral home has Granny Smith?’ She sucked in her breath…and told me the arrangements, told me again that there would have to be enough food there to feed an army what with 47 great grandchildren. I thought about offering up my bananas but why send something so tasteless? ‘Well listen darling, if we can make it over there we sure will.’ I. escaped. Surely this would be it for this trip. Not so, as I rounded the corner the butcher was waiting with his cellphone open…
His daughter is married to a distant cousin. I thought he had new pictures of his 4 year old grandson, who apparently got the call to preach last year on the Fourth of July. Battling heat, mosquitos and swatting flies- a crowd gathered on the bleachers, waiting for the fireworks. This little dark haired tyke, marched to the front of the bleachers and called out as loud as he could- ‘Can I get an amen? Hallelujah! Thank y’all for coming out tonight!’ He sang, he waved his little arms, he hollered out amen and amen…he ran the rails, he called down fire. And what do you know? Fireworks started popping and fizzling- the sky lit up. Yes, he definitely had the gift. Got it from our side of the family no doubt. But this was not to be the story from the open cellphone…that’s next week…the Fourth of July.
Oh no, the butcher wanted to show me a picture of a buggy load of some of the finest steaks in the store! Someone had tried to leave the store with that buggy load the night before- ‘Well, I’ll be.’ ‘You think that’s somethin’? They did manage to get a buggy full of King Crab legs out of here- just watched it on tape.’ Will wonders never cease.
Surely this was it…I managed to get over to the dairy aisle. I felt the shadow of a man come over my shoulder.- I was thinking- surely it’s not the creepy man who asks women out on dates by the cheese. It wasn’t. He was very tall, so skinny he probably had to stand sideways in the shower. ‘Hey, Ms. Camellia, did ya hear ’bout Granny Smith?’ Yes. I. did. ‘Slipped on a throw rug, broke her nose, black eyes and everything- said some of those great grandkids were underfoot.’ Well, that’s awful. ‘Did ya hear my momma died?’ No, I didn’t. I am so sorry. How did she die? ‘I’ll tell ya what got ‘er. Cigarettes, Lard and Beer.’ I could not think of one thing to say, except – Cigarettes. Lard and Beer? How old was she? Soulfully, the thin man said ‘She was just 92.’ I cleared my throat, straightened up and said-‘Well, I hate to hear it.’ I saw a friend as I was leaving the store- I told him not to buy cigarettes, lard or beer, that he won’t live past 92. He said- ‘I tell you what Camellia, if you’ll add Gin to that diet I’m goin’ on it.’ Me? I’m switching to water. You cannot make this stuff up.
I missed everybody when I was on vacation- cannot wait to share some of it with you! Just had to have some fun and share the continuing grocery store saga with you! Until next time-
Love y’all, Camellia