I heard her before I saw her in the crowded store. “Man, those chips look good! I think I need to get me some of those,” she exclaimed.
My son had just thrown a bag of Tostitos Scoops into our cart, an item I had forgotten but needed for a dip I was making. We were in the checkout line and it looked like it was going to be awhile before we could head home.
Checkout lines before Chicago’s first snowstorm of the season look a lot like a Beyoncé concert before the gates open, except with far less swag. Long, winding and full of people looking impatient.
My swag caught the eye of the woman in front of me in the checkout line. She asked me to watch her cart while she went to find her own bag of Scoops. As I pushed her cart forward in line, I could not help but notice its contents: four containers of bited-sized strudel, every flavor of Oreo cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, three kinds of potato chips, 84 bottles of diet soda, a few bags of candy bars, chocolate-marshmallow cookies, two tubs of ice cream, Cheez Whiz and frosted brownies. Buried at the bottom, barely visible, was a bottle of fish oil. I was not sure that last item would be enough to stave off the heart attack and diabetes that awaited in her cart. I have been known to unwittingly steal grocery carts but I think this one may have been a bit much for me to ever mistake it for my own.
When she came back and tossed the Scoops into her cart, she smiled and said, “I should never come to the grocery store when I’m hungry.”
Bit of an understatement.
Don’t ask me how I knew—but she wasn’t throwing a party. At least not for other people. This cart had pity party written all over it—and so did her eyes. I remembered last year at this time, just before the holidays. I had just broken off a serious relationship. I was heartbroken and feeling fragile. The Gilmore Girls (yes, every single season) and an obscene amount of feta cheese and garlic on baguette rounds kept me sane. Perhaps with some Baconator fries thrown in for good measure one too many times.
But her cart—her cart screamed I Hurt. I Hurt A Lot. I didn’t know why and I wasn’t about to ask her. But, it was a huge reminder to me that this time of year can be really hard for a lot of people. All that joy we know we are supposed to be feeling. The families with trees atop the car, kids flying down the sledding hill, the hustle and bustle—all can make someone feeling sad and lonely that much more sad and lonely.
I smiled at my ravenous fellow shopper and said, “I get it. Believe me. I shop all the wrong aisles when I am super hungry.”
By this time, the bagger was putting the last of this woman’s groceries into her cart. As she tore open a bag of Oreos and stuffed three into her mouth, she smiled at me and said, “Mewwy Kwiffmuff!”
Indeed. I wished her one back and I truly meant it.
19 Comments Add yours
The world is full of stories waiting to be told by perceptive and empathetic writers. Thanks for telling this one.
Thank you:). I guess that is just how we are wired, right? My friends often say, “This won’t end up in your blog, will it?” Ah, the perils of befriending a writer!
This was good to read. I can appreciate her pain and your empathy.
Have a Merry Christmas!
Thank you! That’s what I was hoping to get across. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!
One of my guilty secrets is judging others by the contents of their basket – much more so since I started eating less disastrously myself 🙂
Good for you Kristine for showing empathy, though a good diet and a bit of exercise would be a useful bit of self-help as well as the help of others.
I am smiling, Roy, as I imagine you surreptitiously stealing glances at the carts beside you in the aisle:).
Such a shame that she was hurting so much at this time of year and that comfort eating was the only answer.
That’s what I thought. Wishing there was another balm for her soul.
I too recently noticed a cart full of unhealthy food at the store. But I didn’t think about this woman being lonely. To me she looked like was saving money, and sadly this is the cheapest way to eat.
LOVE the title of this post…it really brought the piece together 😊.
Sad, right? Food ghettoes shouldn’t exist.
So true. This time of year seems to make us all ache a little extra.
Seems counter to the spirit of the season, doesn’t it? Wish it weren’t so.
Yes, I hear ya, Kristine. My heart goes out to those who are hurting this time of year. I just sat with someone this afternoon and after listening a long time, I simply said, “I’m sorry you find yourself in this difficult situation.” There’s really nothing I can do to change her situation for her but I wanted her to know I was here to listen, encourage and journey through this whole mess with her even if I couldn’t change any of the big things. I wish sometimes I had a magic wand to make time go backwards and reverse a situation and bad choices but I don’t have that power or capability so instead it’s just a “journey with” time and sticking by her when there’s nothing else to do. ( I know that’s not really what your post was about… but I guess I just babbled all over your comment section….Thanks for the therapy! 😉
Wow–you probably gave her just what she needed! This time of year, so many people are too busy to do what you just did. I’m so glad you were thoughtful enough to really hear her:).
There is a lot of pain and loneliness during this time of year. I think if we are aware and connect where we can, we can make a big difference for someone. It Sounds like you did just that Kristine.,😄
I hope so!
Yes Kristine, there is very much pain for some…but I am very cheeky, I look them in the eye, smile, and give them a meaningful hug…just to let them know there is hope, there is feeling, and there is most certainly love still in this world.
And also the ability for a renewed self worth, by throwing that last packet of ‘whatever’ back in the cupboard, and just go for a walk, admire some nature…and also realise they are very much worth what has just happened, and hold that in their hearts ❤
Great post..I too used to have many lonely Christmas's…until I found what I was looking for….me! 😀
I know I will be thinking of her on Christmas, Mark. Sending good thoughts her way. I didn’t hug her but I did give her one of my warmest smiles and a bit of conversation. I hope that was enough!
Most certainly enough Kristine, they can ‘feel’ what is behind that smile, for it comes from the heart, and its signal is greater than all others.
And well done for that sincerity. That on its own is admitting your own worth, only then can you give it out from that place, once found within yourself 😀
Mewwy Kwiffmuff to you also, but may it be from being full of love, regardless of what you eat ❤