By Every Family’s Got One Founder — Barbara Herel
We called it Food Shopping. Not “shopping for groceries” or “going to the grocery store.” It was Food Shopping.
And it wasn’t for the faint of heart.
My dad, my two brothers and I went Food Shopping every two weeks. My mom worked evenings at EAB (European American Bank, now Citibank) and was lucky enough to miss out on the happening.
She and Dad passed the parenting baton precisely at 4:30 PM – when he walked through the door after work and she walked out.
[Once when Dad was late, Mom swiftly directed us to the couch and chair – “Charlie, sit there; Barbara here, Robert there.” Satisfied that we wouldn’t be able to hit each other, she barked out her final order before leaving, “Do not move until Daddy comes home.” I’m fairly certain we didn’t. I’m also fairly certain we were clever enough to position ourselves within striking distance without ever leaving our assigned seats.]
Right after my dad changed out of his postal uniform, we’d hop into the “Food Shopping” vehicle of champions, our yellow station wagon with wood paneling, and head to Pathmark with our long Food Shopping lists and an envelope full of coupons.
We’d round up two shopping carts…
and split up into teams – usually the boys, and me and my dad. I so wanted to be teamed up with my older brother Charlie, to pretend we were grownups out on our own, but we weren’t the best together, always battling for control of the cart. To his credit, Charlie’s organizational skills were stellar. (It’s little wonder he has excelled in the business world.)
Charlie and Robert…
would head to the middle aisle, my dad and I started at the beginning in produce. I liked that I got to sample grapes, but the boys were in charge of picking out the cereal. I had a hard time trusting my Honey Combs would actually make it into the wagon.
Eventually, we’d all meet up in frozen foods. And now that I think of it, I don’t know why we spent all that time in produce when all we ate was frozen vegetables of every kind and drank frozen orange juice concentrate.
We knew Food Shopping was done…
when those last few items were in danger of teetering off the cart. Then we’d carefully make our way to check out and man our battle stations: Robert and I cart side, responsible for creating the steady flow of food items and whatnot on the conveyer belt. My dad handing coupons off to the cashier, and Charlie packing up the Food in paper bags. (Don’t feel bad for Charlie, he loved it.)
Once the carts were empty and the coupons tallied, we all joined Charlie with the Food Packing. Finally, we’d wield our heavy load into and out of the station wagon and into the house where the work of Putting Away began.
Easily the most horrifying purchase was…
the Pathmark brand of Carnation Instant Nonfat Dry Milk or as we called “powdered milk,” which we mixed up in a Tupperware drink container. There is nothing worse than having to drink warm, freshly-mixed powdered milk.
You might think Food Shopping would have left me riddled with supermarket fears.
However, what I take away…
from this biweekly occurrence, and hold very dear, is that I equate Food Shopping to being a family.
The very act of Food Shopping feels spiritual.
It gives me an overwhelming sense of connection to my husband and daughter… a belonging. A commitment to something greater.
And it gets me downright weepy.
It’s not uncommon for me to turn to my husband in Trader Joe’s with tears in my eyes and tell him how much I love him while putting avocados in my cart or give my girl big smoochy kisses as we wait on the checkout line.
Sure, I’ve fantasized about the convenience of ordering my groceries online. However, Peapod just doesn’t do it for me, it feels too transient, like dating.
I will always love Food Shopping.
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Every Family’s Got One (a story, that is) is a storytelling show that will feature 10 writers reading their own words about family in all it’s crazy wonderful forms – in front of a live audience. Well, it is. And we need you.
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