As a long time reader and collector of Southern fiction I have come to appreciate sense of place, redemption of many types, prodigal son or daughter returns from big city to find what they have always wanted in the place where they began and odd, eccentric characters that are the odd duck in a family of conformists or just family members that are strange and odd. We all have those kinds of family members or at the very least, we are the strange and odd relative. It is very easy and usually the familiar way of making fun of them and the "qualities" we don't quite understand. Or maybe it is difficult to find something redemptive in who they are and it takes time and patience to search those qualities out.
There's not a lot of compassion in the let's laugh at them. Yesterday, I got behind just this kind of family as I was going into the grocery store. I love this place but there are a few things here I don't understand. The lack of lane space to merge onto a freeway and the entrances to stores are so small.The entrance and exits of grocery stores here are so compact. There is nary a bit of room to get your cart, turn it around, and try to get in the store with others trying to do the same. At the same time that same amount of people are trying to get out of the store and then there are those who just stop...stop in their tracks and stare...probably thinking of getting a Starbucks or what size cart do they need. There is so many obstacles to maneuver once you get inside, that causes limited access which is probably by plan because the organic veggies and this week's fruit specials are there to greet and tempt you.
This is where I found myself yesterday in a crowd and behind a family that had more members strange and odd than what I would think of as normal. And they were slow, they debated over grocery carts. The woman in charge of the family had her hands full. Either the two men that took the most attention were brothers or uncles of the lady. The men were identical twins and I'm guessing in their 70's but life can be rough here and age a person beyond their years. They both wore jean shorts with suspenders, black socks dress socks with tennis shoes and t-shirts. Both men looked to have been outdoors a lot because the chigger bites on their legs were numerous and recently scratched for relief. The son of the lady in charge looked to be 12 or so and there were two girls along with them, one was probably a sister to the son and the other older girl might have been a helper for the two brothers. Slow and frantic are not my best patient times. Added to the mix there at the front door were two women visiting, one finished shopping and the other one fixing to...it was claustrophobic standing there, in the ready position with my cart and no where to go and the only thing to do was wait. I watched the lady in charge help everyone with selections in the bakery. You see I had an opportunity to break free and get to the produce area but dang it, I forgot I wanted nectarines and had to decide if I was willing to get behind the family again for some fruit I love. I made the move and yes, once again thwarted in easement through the store. There in the bakery, those two brothers were so animated and finally made the choice of a huge container of croissants, like you would purchase for a party. One of the twin boys took out a change purse and began counting coins to see if they had enough money but the lady in charge told them to put up the change purse and continue shopping. I kind of lost track of them because they were buying real food whereas I am there purchasing food that looks like I am in college. Mostly snacky but there was some real meal deals strewn among the Triscuits and chips. We met up again on the Coke aisle and there was equal excitement just like the croissants in being able to choose the kind of Coke they wanted which turned out to be a Pepsi product. For that lady, on that day, there wasn't a quick trip to the grocery store for her. She was patient and funny but didn't put up with back talk and shenanigans. Lots of trying to put junk in the cart and she sent them right back to put it up. Reminded me of an experience after my ablation. It was the day after surgery and Roy and I were stopping at the grocery store. It had been several years of not having any kind of energy for anything but the task at hand but now I was feeling pretty dang good and the tremendous loss of water weight made me footloose and fancy free. Roy is trying to get the groceries through the checkout and we were close to the Easter candy. I kept bringing things to the cart and Roy kept sending me back to put the candy up. A similar scene was happening in the next lane and a woman with three children dealt with the same dilemma and like Roy she was sending kids back to the Easter candy aisle to return product. Roy looked over at her and said I feel your pain yet he was inwardly rejoicing because I hadn't had that kind of energy or interest for several years.
I should have gone up to that lady when she and the entourage were checking out and just told her she was doing a fine job, no a great job. Encouragement can lift a spirit and give you a little more energy for the task at hand. It is really so simple and so kind.
So that's it. I'm glad for the change of heart and I'm glad I chose not to present this story in anything but an honoring way because y'all...it would have been a fine story but now it is a great story.