300 Miles from No Where
You never imagine major life moments happening in an Albertsons, let alone one that isn’t of the 24-hour variety. But sometimes it happens this way and the surprise is thus magnified even more.
I was alone, except for my thoughts, as I trudged through the deli and bread aisles. They didn’t have the particular mustard that I’ve recently taken a shine to, Grey Poupon Deli Style, but they had fresh wheat buns. I then headed across the store’s back-40 in order to pick up cereal and milk, always conspicuously placed furthest from the entrance. Having acquired my loot it was only a matter of weaving my way to the self-checkout through aisles better suited for families who cook, aisles I typically avoid.
Out-of-body experience. Instantly I was in my Grandmother’s kitchen. The kitchen that had served countless meals. The kitchen that wasn’t big enough for more than a few people to be in, but nine times out of ten was exactly where one would find Grandma. Nita. That is her name–one that closely mirrors her personality. And there I sat,
The mid-summer sun streams through the pain-glass window just over the counter. The window, open, allows the sound of a robin to drift in on the afternoon heat. The whir of an oscillating fan tussles my hair every few seconds. It was most assuredly purchased long before I was born and has sat prominently in that same position on the counter as long as I can remember. Occasionally I can hear Grandpa coughing or sneezing on the porch swing. He spends most of his time there, lazily watching the cars that amble by about once an hour and swatting ever persistent flies. The creak of the chain can be heard through the screen door just past the window and on the other side of the sink. I look up and see Grandma smiling at me. She tosses a cookie my way (fresh from the oven and still warm to the touch) then goes back to her task… dinner.
Her hair, still perfectly blonde, shows little sign of the age and stress she has endured throughout life. Though her face is starting to crease it’s still easy to see that she has more life before her than behind. Her sleeves are pushed up above her elbows and she occasionally wipes her brow with the back of her arm, trying to keep cool from the oppressive heat and the stove that is a mere foot behind her and loaded with various pots and pans filled with home-grown goodies. In front of her, on the table, a cream cloth is spread out and covered with flour. A canister filled with more of the same sits to one side and on the other a large ball of dough which she has just made from scratch. She grabs an old wooden rolling pin in one hand, the dough in the other, and goes to town. Flour puffs from the table and Grandma is lost in the process she’s done a hundred times over. She makes quick work of it, eventually cutting it into little squares which will be included in her famous chicken and dumplins.
She looks up at me again, smiles broadly, and tosses another cookie my way. Leaning in she winks and pauses, with timing that tells she’s about to let me in on a little secret, telling me not to tell my mother or else we’ll both be in trouble. I can’t help but think I’m in heaven.
And then it was over. I’m back in Albertsons, twenty years later, struggling to carry my cereal, milk, and sandwich material. I can’t fight the feeling of being alone so I embrace it for a moment.
I looked around trying to figure out what caused this out-of-body experience and realize that I’m in the Dry Goods aisle. To my right are various brands of sugar and flour, perfectly stacked like white bricks of gold. To my left is brown sugar and cinnamon, and just down the aisle, rolling pins.
For a fleeting second, in a random Albertsons 300 miles and twenty years from home, Grandma and I had a moment.
I love the thought of that moment. She has been gone now for a few years, cancer took her too soon, but in that moment, I enjoyed her presence in my life. The presence of memories now remain – some ever present and poignant others a bit more distant, but those memories take me back to a place in time when all was well and right – 300 miles from nowhere.