For weeks I stood in the grocery store and cried. Usually it happened in the produce aisle, but sometimes it happened at the deli counter or in front of the calcium fortified orange juice. Casually I would wipe the tears away as I tried to make weeping in a supermarket look like the most natural thing in the world.
I hadn’t seen this coming and so it hit me like a two by four. My eldest had gone to college so I no longer bought berries or sliced turkey or clementines. My map of the grocery store, laid down by decades of my family’s eating habits had been brutally altered and I had no idea this change would cause to me cry in public standing between the honey crisp apples and non-organic raspberries looking like a fool.
Then a second less-healthy-eating son left for school and I steered clear of the aisles that contained baked Lays potato chips, Bagel Bites pizzas and frankly anything that can be eaten out of a microwave at 2am. Outside of the grocery store I was okay with my older boys having left for college but once I crossed the threshold of the A&P, things were not good. I started shopping less, not great news for either my high school son or husband, and ordering in take out food or dashing into corner markets and just grabbing what we absolutely needed.
And then they were coming home. Thanksgiving was upon us and for five days I would have three starving teen-age boys. So I ventured back, wandered freely among the aisles, filling and then ultimately overfilling my shopping cart with more food than they could possibly eat in weeks. It was a bit of a squirrel maneuver as I stored up food that would last long after they were back in their dorms. Even the checkout clerk was a little astonished as she rang up the total. I began to realize that when it came to my family and food, I had lost the plot. To avoid feeling sad, I had avoided buying groceries as if that would make my boys small again. Many family rituals come to a predictable, perhaps timely, end. But others, the little daily patterns of life, can simply take you by surprise.