Dear Readers for March 12, 2009

Dear Mom,

You have been on my mind all week, as you often are. It’s still hard to believe you have been gone for almost 20 years.

This week, it was two trips to two different grocery stores that brought back your memory and that familiar, “oh, I wish you were here” feeling.

The first grocery store was the Food City in Maryville. It was what you would have called a “quick trip” to the grocery, something we didn’t do too often when I was growing up. I needed yogurt to take to work and forgot to bring it from home. I ran in Food City, bought the yogurt and a box of my Crystal Light tea mix and was on my way to work in no time.

I did run into two people I knew, Mom, and, yes, I did have my lipstick on. I will admit to you that it was completely by accident and only because I was on my way back to work. I thought about you then, because I realized how much you would like my “work home” in Blount County.

The second trip was one of those planned trips to shop for groceries. I passed by two other grocery stores near my home in West Knoxville to intentionally check out the new, mega-grocery Kroger Market Place in Farragut.

A word of confession here, Mom. Neville does most of our grocery shopping now. We used to sometimes grocery shop together, but he gets impatient with my dawdling and visiting with friends I might see there. You know my husband. He’s a “get the job done” type of person, and grocery shopping is a task to be handled efficiently.

I slowly just began to let him do it himself. It saved us money, as he is also a “follow the list” shopper.

But this new Kroger has been the talk of the town, so I wanted to see it myself. When I say “mega-grocery,” I mean like nothing you have ever seen.

I will tell you that you would love the wide aisles. You don’t have to maneuver or whip your cart into line just to pass someone coming the other direction.

Grocery stores have come a long way since the days we did our weekly shopping at the Griggs IGA in little Lexington, Tenn. I know you have been gone so long that you probably would be surprised even at the banks and pharmacies that are now commonplace in grocery stores, but this Market Place has taken that surprise to a whole different level.

The groceries are spread out in an artistic display -- especially the produce. Your eyes would bug out at the colors and choices. You would also no doubt shake your head at the prices we are willing to pay to have someone else chop our lettuce and put it in a little bag for us. I still remember how torn you were at paying a “king’s ransom” for shelled walnuts when we had perfectly good walnuts in the backyard, waiting to be picked up, cracked and shelled.

But at the Market Place, Mom, they have furniture. Quite a bit of it. And a café. And jewelry. And a toy store.

The store was pretty magnificent, but I found myself just completely distracted, forgetting what I was there to buy. (I know, I know -- always bring the list.)

I wondered silly things, like, do you come for a quart of milk and think, “Wow, this $1,000 sofa looks great. Let’s load it up?”

Will kids leave notes for Santa saying, “You can fill my wish list at Kroger, grab some food for the reindeer and some milk and cookies for yourself and save lots of time?”

Could a young man ready to propose actually tell the love of his life, “I hope you like the ring. I got it at Kroger?”

I did enjoy the outing. I would have loved to have taken you there.

I think I know what your reaction would have been. As with all your life, you would have marveled and enjoyed the experience. I also know you would have happily retreated to your IGA back at home, where there was a friend in every aisle, a butcher who asked “What are you cooking this week?” and knew just what meat to cut, and an owner who, when you were wheelchair bound, had your groceries brought to your door and sometimes even put them in the cabinets for you.

The store was magnificent, Mom, but, I will tell you, I felt like a rube. But don’t worry. I may not have written my list down, but I promise you, I had no curlers in my hair and, yes, I refreshed my lipstick before I got out of the car.

I know I used to laugh at your “grocery shopping rules,” but, in this day and time, when a trip to the grocery can feel more like a trip to the mall, I think you may have had a good point.

If I go back, however, I need to remember to pick up the ice cream after I visit the jewelry counter. You know how distracted we country girls get when jewelry is involved.

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