THE PRODUCE SECTION
In 2003, there was a Bag ‘N Save grocery store at 48th and Vine Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. On a gray November day, I approached that store with my eighty-eight-year-old mother and seventeen-year-old daughter. Catching sight of our reflection in the glass doors, I wondered exactly what gene pool could possibly claim all of us.
My mother: Dark hair gone gray, she was born four years before women had the right to vote. A young woman during the depression, she defines the word conservative. Her view of the world is black and white with little in between.
Myself: Forty-five years old, blond and beleaguered, stretched thin between work and family, I reluctantly toss paper plates and plastic utensils into my grocery cart, and spend money on convenience items to shave fifteen or twenty minutes on food preparation. I see the world in many shades of gray, with some right and wrong in almost everything.
My daughter: Magenta streaked hair, she was born into a world of computers and technology. Fiercely independent, she sees the world in varying colors that will adjust to her views.
We are at Bag ‘N Save to buy groceries, and also to make my mother happy. She loves to grocery shop and has clipped a $2 coupon for each of us. The coupons can be used on either produce or ground meat. Seconds into the store, my daughter picks out a pomegranate for $1.98. My mother at first tsk tsks the choice, but then reconsiders. It is a pomegranate, and it is free. My mother is also using her coupon on produce. She surveys the fruits and vegetables, then flutters from display to display, alighting here and there for a bunch of celery, a garlic bulb, an apple, some bananas, a bunch of a parsley, sometimes exchanging something she’s picked out for a different item.
After she’s done, we continue through the grocery store, isle by isle. I use my coupon in the meat section which doesn’t require any thought. Somewhere in the dairy section we become a covert operation, with my mother referring to us by the free food we are getting with our coupons. As we emerge from frozen foods, my mother eyes the checkout counters. “We’ll send the pomegranate through first. Hamburger, you’ll go next.”
My mother is last, purchasing a plastic grocery sack of produce for a mere 14 cents. “You are the shopper of us all,” I tell her, and her granddaughter nods agreement. As we exit the store, my mother takes hold of the side of the cart, and her gait changes from that of an elderly woman to the successful child at an Easter Egg Hunt. Out in the parking lot, beams of pink and yellow light peek through the clouds, and I think to myself that even the sky has responded to my mother’s happiness.