Mary Oves
Mary Oves Danny Drake

For the twelve years my children have been on this earth, I have been going to work and leaving someone else in charge of mornings with my kids. And I was always glad. I liked the morning grownup world of coffee, meetings and high heels. I would run out the door and catch a glimpse of spilled milk and late homework, and think how lucky I was to be able to hire someone to do it for me.

But this week life circumstances put me as morning girl, and the time I have had with my kids has been a blessing. A true gift. Money couldn't buy the experiences I've had with my kids this week. Just being able to help them with their homework, pack their uniforms, walk my youngest to his bus and make lunches has given me insights into them I couldn't have known otherwise. Morning is a special time.

I was also afforded the special opportunity to experience the grocery store in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week. And it is so different from Sunday morning after church.

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When I go to ShopRite on late Sunday mornings, it's filled with working mothers like me who don't get a chance to go to the store every time something runs out. So by the time Sunday arrives, cupboards are bare, and we are serious. Our carts are piled high with enough food for the week, or even two, because who knows when we'll get back here again?

On Sundays, lines are long, and carts are busting. It's hard to steer a cart, and certainly nowhere to park it. Sometimes I go down the medicine aisle just because it's wide and empty. Sundays are crowded and frustrating, and take a minimum of three hours from entry of supermarket back to driveway with groceries.

But in the middle of a workday, it's Xanadu. I pulled into a parking space close to the crosswalk. I pulled a number for the deli: 92. They were on 92. I got my stuff and proceeded to the fish. I was greeted immediately, and had my crumbed tilapia wrapped before I was done eyeing up the scallops. I had accomplished in three minutes what takes me twenty minutes minimum on Sundays. Fish and lunchmeat. Check.

The aisles were a pleasure. Wide and sweeping, no one to steer around. I browsed, checked sales prices, even listened to the store manager's announcement about Cozy Shack pudding on sale for 99 cents.

There were a lot of senior citizens shopping, some alone, some together, smiling and holding hands, and young mothers with babies and pre-school age children. Some were dressed like I used to when boys were babies: hurriedly, so as not to waste time with the two hour window before the morning nap. Some women were donned in workout gear, as if they had just gone running or were about to.

A different world. No one was rushing, everyone was smiling. Taking their time. I don't take my time with anything, so I had to force myself not to rush through the experience. I savored it, and experienced the moment.

Carts weren't filled. These were people who came to the store every day or every other day. One elderly woman's cart had two mushrooms, a stalk of celery, and a bottle of Creamer for coffee. She had a big cart and was waiting in line behind me, eyeing my cart piled three feet high. I offered to let her go in front of me, but she demurred, saying she was in no rush. I pointed to the express lane which had no one in it, but she insisted that she enjoyed watching all of the stuff I had in my cart.

"I remember those days of buying for my young sons. They ate us out of house and home," she chuckled.

She commented on every item I put on the belt, but it was alright. I knew she was reminiscing, and found joy in the sugary cereal she no longer purchased or ate. She asked about my boys, and we passed the time discussing what it's like to have a "boy house," with no girls. She was lovely.

I pushed my cart to the car, and crossed to the crosswalk without a problem, and as I loaded my groceries into my car, I realized something very profound had happened to me that day.

I had forgotten my Cozy Shack pudding on sale for 99 cents.

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