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Christmas Memory: Finding Joy In Aisle Seven

A few days after Christmas I’m the one shopping alone at the Co-op. Holiday eating habits growing stale, I escaped our packed house to pick up some of our usual staples: string cheese, yogurt, carrots, wheat thins. I bought a coffee and sipped while I wandered the aisles, caught between solitary serenity and that restless feeling I get whenever I’m away from my kids, a sense that they need me. That if I don’t return to them soon they will all perish miserably, like the ladybug’s children who had the bad luck to be alone in the house when the fire caught.

Perfect symmetry would require I run into the artichoke appetizer lady, perhaps burdened with a grandchild or two, and we’d exchange knowing glances and wry smiles. But I didn’t see her. I saw lots of dads dragged low with children. I saw a few other moms taking advantage of holiday off-time. And several of the people working at the store greeted me with variations of: “Where are your children? Did they have a good holiday?” We’ve been coming to the Co-op since before my oldest was born. My husband came here for food during our brief post-partum hospital stays. We stopped here on the way home with boy number three to restock the pantry I knew would be empty after my absence. The people here knew us, they knew our children, and they knew the smile on my face that meant I’m on my own.

“Your Christmas must’ve been a blast,” the young cashier said to me as she rang up my economy size ketchup and several pounds of Macintosh apples. Still no expensive artichoke appetizers in my cart.

“It was fabulous,” I told her.

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