Feeding the soul, at the supermarket

siobhan connally supermarket cart in aisle

Not advertised in the circular: wisdom.

By Siobhan Connally

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

Isn't it strange how life-affirming events almost always happen in the most mundane of all places, or, more specifically, during the pursuit of the bland?

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It's not like revelation waits for those RARE moments when you're all gussied up, coiffed and powered, and sets a place card for you at the table.

Nope. Revelation, for me, happens a few steps before putting fork to plate -- usually at the supermarket.

I've spent countless hours in empty rooms, wearing comfortable clothes, emptying my mind of its negative contents and not only does relaxation elude me, but I gain no insight into any of life's great mysteries.

siobhan connally supermarket unhappy in dairy aisle

Yet give me a cart with a wonky wheel, one kid who is chattering up a storm and another who won't be still and you can be sure some little bit of wisdom is going to come my way just as I try and find the aisle where the shopkeepers hid the pancake mix this week.

Most people tend to think their "wisdom" sails past my head, but often it hits me with the force of a steam engine.

I remember the first time it happened: my daughter was only a few weeks old and I had gone to the market for oranges. I was in the produce section frowning over clementines when the aunt of a friend came up to congratulate me.

I didn't feel worthy of congratulations. I didn't feel like much of a parent. No experience. No sleep. No ability to see too far into the future. I told her the idea of returning to work frightened me, as did the idea of not returning.

"Don't worry," she told me. "You will make the right decision. And remember, if that decision doesn't work out you'll make ANOTHER decision and it WILL BE the right one!"

Just that little affirmation made me breathe easier. It's crazy but still comforting. You know, like when your mind is mulling over all the things that you can't shut down and some song comes on the radio that seems to fit perfectly. Some little bit of universal wisdom wedged into a couplet that makes you whistle a happy tune again all because it played when you needed it most.

So I guess I have to admit that when I need something spiritual in nature I go to the grocery store. I head right for the make-your-own coffee counter next the bakery and then I slowly make my way up and down the other aisles, taking my time.

There's so much we need to ignore, such as the sugared-cereal in the center of the store and the pinched faces that market their packages of displeased judgement calls with furrowed brow and snide remarks.

However, sometimes there's someone standing there offering a tasty morsel that can make you stand taller, have more energy and redeem your faith in human kind.

My son was new. I was bagging my groceries with him asleep in a pouch I wore around my body. An elderly woman was sitting on a bench by the window and she asked for my attention. Like most people who notice me, she was interested in the being in the bag.


I nodded.

"Why look at him, he's so alert. ...

"And so handsome.

"My word.

"You know, I predict he will do great things. I can see it in his eyes."

I hugged her. What else could I do?

Thumbnail image for siobhan connally supermarket kids clementines

There's something about a stranger's unsolicited praise that makes everything seem so smooth and uncomplicated. Even unsolicited advice seems silky soft when it's said with sweet concern.

"May I give you a piece of advice? Don't ever mock him. Don't even laugh at him with love. These smart ones catch on even when they don't really know."

It was something I know, sadly, from experience.

"Don't laugh at me," my daughter tells us now, "You're making me foolish."

By the time I get back to the car with my children, our purchases and my lukewarm coffee, I've got more than nourishment for the body -- I've got some for the soul, too.

Siobhan Connally shares her writing and photography at Ittybits & Pieces.

Supermarket Week 2012:
+ Delivery! Comparing ShopRite from Home and Price Chopper Shops4U
+ Annoyed in aisle 5
+ When will Trader Joe's open -- a prediction pool
+ Supermarket Showdown V: the annual cross store price check


Nicely said.

That was a wonderful little bit of Chicken soup for the soul!

Beautiful essay. When my daughter was just a couple of months old I took her shopping with me. I was talking to her about the vegetables and fruits, and putting them near her nose so she could smell them. And older woman said to me "keep talking to her like that and she'll grow up to be very verbal and smart." Well, she grew up to get an 800 on the verbal part of her SATs and just graduated cum laude from Tufts. And she loves (most) vegetables and fruits, too!

That was a beautiful piece, Siobhan.


Good idea, though. I bet AOA gets massively more pageviews on any entry supermarket-related, which is weird but whatever. That's Albany for you I guess.

Thanks for sharing Siobhan. That was lovely.

For us, when our little guy was brand new, going to the supermarket was often THE big event of the week. It was fascinating how interactions during those visits could affect my mood for the day or give me a boost of energy when I was oh-so sleep deprived.

Great photos, BTW - are those your kids?

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