On the way to the store we both try to get the other to listen to our preferred music, and must admit that over the years we have each broadened our musical tastes. I am surprised to find now that we actually overlap more than we differ. Some of my daughter’s favorite music requires a little bopping and gyration from me, and that never fails to elicit a quick protest as soon as I look at her to register her reaction (she waits for me to look at her and she knows I will).
Of course, soon enough she is doing the same thing.
It’s amazing how many topics can come up in a ten-minute car ride to the store. Maybe there’s a story about a school friend or a question about a child she baby-sits who cannot fall asleep, or her interest in different careers, or a short discussion about people who give her (and her friends) the creeps and why, or the best way to be supportive to a friend in a family crisis.
Sometimes she is worried about an upcoming test in school, other times she rails against the logic of putting in a new drugstore right next to CVS.
Sometimes there is just a comfortable silence on the trip to the store, or a remark about the amazing color of the sky. (Okay, that’s my type of remark, but she does have an uncanny eye for the beautiful, the unusual or the interesting appearance of things around her).
We always park in a spot closest to the store that is at the same time closest to a carriage bay. Then, to the predictable groan of my daughter, I always say (after the groceries are in the trunk of the car), “At least we don’t have far to go to put the carriage away.”
“Dad!” she says just as soon as I start the remark, or even so much as look over at her.
The grocery store is a lesson in decision-making. It’s an opportunity to learn about how much things cost and to compare the price difference across different brands. You find out that the size of the package can be (usually is) misleading when comparing costs and you try to take advantage of what is on sale. You have to decide what you really want, among the elective items, because you can’t have everything.
This never causes a problem because my daughter’s special requests are not excessive. Gummy fruit snacks, Pop tarts, and a croissant from the bakery section pretty much covers it.
Oh yeah, and whole wheat bread without any seeds, granny smith apples (no shade of red, yellow, or orange apple is acceptable), sweet potatoes and Portuguese sweet rolls. Beyond that, my daughter gets to pick out the ice cream for the family (one of the brands on sale, hopefully Fenway Fudge, I’m sure she’s thinking). And as we wander through the aisles she makes meal suggestions for me to consider.
“When are we going to have tacos again?”
“I want to start having more yogurt,” she says as she brings in what she has learned in health class.
“We never have Mystic Pizza anymore. Let’s start having that again.” (We started, of course).
“Dad, the cashiers don’t want to hear all your little comments and joking remarks.”
That’s not always true (but most of the time she’s right about that). I try to explain that it’s important to feel connected with your community and to build casual relationships with some of the people you encounter on a regular basis. This feeling of connectedness leads to better emotional health and maybe it contributes to a slightly more rewarding life for everyone involved.
That’s about as far as my daughter lets me go before raising an objection, but I often don’t stop there. I might go on, as we wheel the carriage toward the exit, about social skills or the neurochemistry involved in social bonding, until my daughter says abruptly, “Dad.”
“What? What’s wrong with that?”
“You think you know something, don’t you?”
This is what I do know. You are the one who insisted on our grocery shopping routine because you knew something before I knew it. You knew how much this simple routine would mean to both of us. It’s not the only thing we do together but it’s something we can count on every week. What you might not know is how proud I am walking into the store with you, how much I appreciate the person you are, and how fortunate I am to have a daughter like you.
“When are you going grocery shopping, Dad?”
Happy birthday, Rachie. I hope you’re never too old to go grocery shopping with your Dad.