As I write this, I am exactly — to the hour — two weeks out from my second dose (#GenAZModSquad), which means I am now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Or as fully vaccinated as one gets; somewhere shy of 100% but north of landing yourself in the hospital.
So I celebrated by doing something I’ve been dying (not literally) to do for months — years, even. I went to the grocery store.
Now, let’s be clear. I go to the grocery store pretty regularly. In fact, one of the things I love most about where I live in the city is the fact that, according to Google maps and my own eyeballs, I live less than 100m away from a pretty good grocery store. So if I find I’ve got a last-minute need for, I dunno, ‘nduja, I know I can go from home to store and back in under five minutes. Not that I recommend doing that for ‘nduja, unless you’ve got a SERIOUS hankering for meat you can eat with a spoon.
Today, instead of logging in and picking items from a list, I went — in person, in a mask (duh) — to a grocery store that always feels like a tiny, melancholic vacation: Adonis.
I had a list, but unlike shopping online, which requires you to actively seek out individual items, I also had an opportunity to browse the shelves, something I hadn’t done in person since Christmas 2019. I’m not the type of person to get all giddy over new formulations of dishwasher tabs, but Adonis is a bit of a different experience. Brands I’ve never seen — or even heard of — before. Different sizes, too: “How many chickpeas can one family eat?” I ask myself, as I grab cans so big that a second hand is required to lift them into my cart. A range of options that had never occurred to me previously, eg: both Israeli and Palestinian couscous (I’m not being political! They sell both kinds!).
I love shopping there for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because it really does remind me of travelling (remember that?) and how I’m always less interested in the tourist spots than I am in the grocery stores and pharmacies. The places people go because they have to, not because they want to. The places that feel like … everyday life. That help me imagine what it might be like to live in place where grocery runs involve Lidl, not Loblaws; Mercadona, not Metro.
So I bought everything on my list, and a whole bunch more. I thanked the patient cashier who had to price check my meat analogues (not a big seller there, I take it). I wondered whether we actually had room in the fridge for the
12 pounds of nutmeg 1.5 kg of feta. Loaded up the car and started to drive home … and that, my friends, is when I lost it.
I was driving westward on Donald, which affords a pretty clear view of the Peace Tower, its iconic flag still at half mast. And I just started crying.
Partly in gratitude: for vaccines, for science, for hard-working public servants and political staff who helped get us to today. Partly in remembrance: for the elders we’ve lost as country, and for the children who never had a chance to grow old. For this country, which gets so much right, but which also has a pretty grim track record of f*cking things up beyond comprehension. For people fleeing floods and fires. For the fragility of our democracy. For people who find more comfort in conspiracy theories than they do in verifiable facts. For my own failed relationships. For my (now deceased) mother-in-law who always made sure they had the lemon wafer cookies I like, whenever we visited (which was often, even though it was 6000 km away).
And so I was a snotty mess for most of the drive home, until I got back onto the highway and saw another Mitsu bombing along, all four Euro Cup semi-final countries‘ flags flapping. in the wind. Something about that combination made me laugh. Like, no specific loyalty, just “hey, you! you made it this far! good job! proud of you!”
That, I think, is what today’s trip to the fancy grocery store felt like. We made it this far. We did our best. We won’t all win, but we can be proud of what we did.
Lemon cookies for everyone.
2 thoughts on ““… emotional cleanup, aisle four …””
Beautifully written – the photo is great, (mystery shoppers are reviled? who knew?) but really, your colourful prose captures the scene exquisitely.
Love your retelling of this grocery store experience and I completely echo your sentiment ‘We made it this far. We did our best. We won’t all win, but we can be proud of what we did.’ I look forward to being able to meet you in-person someday and share some of those lemon cookies.