Glowing aisles, new items everywhere, the shiny boxes, the colors – this was my florescent heaven. For a chunky 10-year old, this place didn’t just sell groceries, it sold hope. Frosted Flakes, Macaroni and Cheese, Doritos, drumsticks – a latch-key kid’s well-known friends. I wasn’t living for sports or after-school activities, I was living for the next interesting thing to eat.
My parents both worked full-time, my father as a doctor and my mother a real estate agent. The grocery store responsibility usually fell on my dad, but getting him to take us to the store was almost as tiring as waiting for my mom to pick us from school. When we did get to go, we stocked up.
For some odd reason, my dad always felt the need to run to the door of the store as soon as he had parked, like he was on an episode of Supermarket Sweep. We never questioned, just ran too. Our cart, or carts rather, were legendary. My siblings and I filled them with every junk food imaginable, free-for-all carts for five pairs of hands, no questions asked. As we stood in the check-out line, others would stare in awe. We would hear things like, “I wanna live at that house,” or “Are you having a party?” I always felt like saying, No, folks this is just how we live.
My days of leaving the house only to go to school were soon to be over. My evenings after school consisted of television marathons or stints on the computer with Roller Coaster Tycoon. I understood the concept of sitcom syndication at a far too young age.
It was Saturday, my day, grocery day. I impatiently waited for the spoils of the store as I made the rounds through our house. “Duhhad, when are we going?” No answer. I was obviously being ignored, but I persisted, “Duhhhhaaaaaaaaad!”
I went down to my room to do the activity I pretended I liked to do instead of being social, reading. As I drifted away, I thought I heard a door slam. My heart stopped. I ran upstairs. There was silence in the house of seven. The silence engulfed me. I paced as the blood rushed to my face. Where are they?
I went up the next set of stairs. “Hellooooooooooo!” I breathed heavily, heart pounding, about to have a preteen panic attack. I screamed again, “Noooo! Nooo! Noo!” How could they leave me?
I ran outside to see the black SUV heading out the driveway, my raspberry face covered in tears. “Come baack! I want to go too!” I howled. I pulled my hair and stomped the ground. In my last effort, I ran across our field hoping to catch the car. In my soaking socks, I chased the car, poked by the brush with every step. It was too late.
I took my solemn walk back to the house. I decided to dramatically collapse in the yard. With my face against the ground, I contorted my body in every way possible, crying until my head hurt. I beat the ground in pure misery and heartbreak. After exhausting myself, I choked up the words, “I can’t believe they left without me.”
Reflecting on that time of my life, it makes me glad not to be a little kid. The things that could set me off and cause temporary meltdowns amaze me. Thoughts about the science fair, or not having exactly the right thing to wear on a picture day, still stress me out. Adults often look at children with envy, but the truth is every age has its own anxieties. For a child, the whole world could fall to pieces in a moment, with the slam of the front door.