At the grocery store, I stop first at the white peaches and the plums because they are on sale and fragrant, and because picking plums reminds me of going grocery shopping with my mom when it was summer and I was little girl.
Hadley and Harper are behind me with little green grocery carts that have long poles with flags that read, “Shopper in Training.” I place four white peaches in a bag, tie it in a knot and hand them to Harper. I do the same with four plums and hand them to Hadley. They place the fruit in their carts and I fill two more bags.
An elderly lady next to me is gently squeezing several plums and peaches. She handles so many of them carefully and I think about riding home from the grocery store with my mom. The windows were rolled down, Motown on the radio, and she’d rub a plum against her t-shirt then hand it to me.
“These are white peaches,” the lady tells me, and I smile. “I like them because there’s no fuzz,” she adds, and bags two peaches and two plums. She twirls the bag, then reaches in her pocket for a twist tie. ”I just put all my fruit in one bag because it’s all the same price. I hope that’s OK,” she tells me as she twists the tie to hold her twirled bag.
“I’m sure it’s fine,” I say.
She bends down to Hadley and Harper. “Hello.” They smile shyly and say hello back.
“Have a good day,” she tells all of us.
We thank her and head for the eggs. I slow the cart when I see the neatly stacked cartons, but Harper is singing a song and isn’t paying attention to where she or anyone is. She rams into my heel with her cart so hard that my head snaps back, tears immediately form, and “Ffffff” sails out of my mouth. I shut it before the rest of the word escapes, ashamed at both the fact that this is the word that brims to my mouth when I’m hurt, and also at the thought that it would be so satisfying to finish saying it in this moment.
Harper doesn’t know she’s hurt me. She’s still singing and skipping down the aisle.
I turn to the eggs, my vision blurry from tears and from the pain in my heel.
I want to buy white eggs because they’re easy to crack, and easy to peel when boiled but I think I know the brown ones are healthier. Except I don’t like brown eggs. They make a mess when I crack them and when I peel them, they end up looking like raisins. Plus, they taste like fish. I sigh, and pick up a dozen Land o’ Lakes brown Omega 3, Cage Free eggs and put them in the cart. I limp down the aisle lamenting over not being able to say the mother of all swear words and having to buy healthier eggs.
I hear a baby – an infant – crying in the next aisle over. I can remember thinking how loud I thought that cry was years ago; how amazing I thought it was that something so small could make so much noise. I could hear the mother “sshhing,” a pleading sshh. I know it well. The baby keeps crying.
We are one aisle over from the new mother and baby, and at one point, we all pop out of our lanes at the same time. I put my arms out to stop Hadley and Harper from moving forward so she could move ahead of us. She is bent over the cart shaking a rattle at the baby in the car seat next to a box of spaghetti, sauce, and diapers. She has on maternity pants, her hair is done, and she is wearing a cute top. She grips the handle of the cart with the other hand, her grocery list crumpled and ripped because it is jammed in between the handle and her hand.
“Thank you,” she whispers to us as she passed.
“Of course,” I whisper back.
“Why are we whispering?” Harper asks.
The new mom and I check out at the same time, our cashiers next to each other. The baby continues to cry, and Harper and Hadley unload their carts faster than I can get the groceries out of mine.
“Hang on girls. Hang on,” I say taking the plums off the Kasier rolls and saving the Goldfish crackers from being crumpled to pieces by the juice boxes.
“Is she always like this?” The cashier asks the new mom, referring to the baby. I contemplate pretending to fall backwards so I hit the cashier in the back, but that would just slow things down for the new mom so I do nothing.
“I don’t know what’s wrong,” the new mom says and picks her baby up.
Three simultaneous responses from the cashiers and veteran moms surrounding the situation. I want to say, “She wants you to all to shut up,” but again, that would probably slow things down.
The boy bagging my groceries suddenly says, “I can’t stand this,” and pivots to the new mom. “M’am? Can I help you? Can I take your groceries to the car?”
The other cashiers gasp in annoyance.
“It’s OK,” I say. “I don’t mind bagging.”
“It’s NOT OK,” one cashier scolds.
“He’s always doing stuff like this,” another one says as she throws my Triscuits into a bag.
Outside, the girls and I push the cart towards the car, past the new mom who’s trying to hand the guy who helped her a tip. He refuses, sees me and yells, “I’m so sorry I stopped bagging your groceries, m’am!”
“Not a problem,” I yell back.
We ride home and I unload the groceries, walking up and down the three flights of stairs to our condo, thankful that the girls can play and I don’t have to strap them into highchairs or a pack n play. It’s so much easier now, I think, hustling out to the car and carrying as many bags as I can up the stairs.
I wash off a plum when the groceries are put away. When I take a bite, its flesh rips easily away from the pit and no juice runs down my arm. It’s perfectly tart and sweet and before I finish this one I rinse off another.
I think back to grocery shopping with my mom. When we came home, I often sat on our front steps, eating plums while she ran up and down the stairs carrying bags of groceries, and I would consider important topics like what it was I would do next on this warm summer day sucking the last of the fruit from the pit.
Guest post written by Callie Feyen. Callie lives in the suburbs of Washington DC with her husband and their two daughters, Hadley and Harper. She teaches 8th grade English and recently earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University.