Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Those Chucks won't fit Anne.

I've been doing grocery shopping for my mom since I was really young. The setting was always the same. She needed things from the store but didn't have her makeup on, so she, obviously, couldn't go in to the store herself. Thus, she did what any responsible, loving mother would've have done: she gave her eight year old a list of things to get and a blank check and had him shop for her at 1:45 am. She'd wait in the car with my little brother or sister, whoever else she'd brought along for this nocturnal outing, listening to Abba albums or the black Rolf Harris cassette tape my Grandpa had sent her. I didn't mind doing this little chore for her because I had a sweet-tooth and I knew, if I was going in for her, I could get a treat for myself. In fact, she'd always tell me to get myself a little something, almost like a rich person tipping a valet. "And a little something for you, Alfred."
So week after week I found myself piling groceries, cleaning supplies, and personal-care products into a shopping cart in the wee hours of the morning. I enjoyed the time I spent, by myself, in our local Smith's store, pushing my overflowing cart with all my weight down the aisle to the checkout. The cashier would always give me an interesting look as I unloaded the contents of the cart onto the conveyor belt. That look was nothing compared to how they looked at me when I pulled out the check and began filling it out. "How much was the total," I'd ask.
"Uh...ninety six dollars and 14 cents," they said, incredulously.
"Is it okay if I write it for twenty dollars over?" They never answered right away.
"Um...yeah. Yeah, you can do that," they'd finally spit out. "But twenty is the limit."
I was eight when Home Alone came out. I remember watching it in the theater and not understanding why the cashier questions Kevin when he buys some groceries at the store. It wasn't until years later that I realized the novelty of the situation.
From canned soup to dish soap to feminine hygiene products, I got it all. I didn't really know what mascara was, but if my mom told me the brand, color, and what the package looked like, I would get it for her.
As time went on our family grew and the shopping list got longer. I remember one time I completely filled one cart and had to get another to put finish with. I had to carefully maneuver my cart to the checkout and unload the mounded one first so the eggs didn't fall from it's place high atop the mountain of other junk I'd thrown in.
My employment ended when I turned sixteen. I'd found freedom in a driver's license and a job of my own. That's about the time my dad starting doing the grocery shopping.