When I think of our life together in the years of Sharon’s childhood, when the series of thunderstorms that was adolescence was a barely perceptible and muffled rumbling a great distance away, I often see us together in the car.
It is the repeated and regular comings and goings, to school, to work, or the home of a friend that establish the rhythm of family life. That rhythm is the framework within which special events and especially memorable adventures occur, much as rhythm is the framework within which grace notes flutter and syncopation charms. For some families, it is the coming and going to and from work and school that establishes this rhythm. For others, it is the presence or absence of a father whose work frequently takes him away from home. The rhythm of life for Sharon and me consisted of being home together, being away from home, or being in the car together.
Gratitude for little (really big) things
A trip in the car together meant we were leaving our precious little home and setting forth, together, into the big, wide world. The physical proximity of being in the car together enhanced the camaraderie and our sense of adventure. So did the fact that Sharon was a fully-informed, and involved participant. She was my partner, in every outing. It had been so since the divorce, when she was three.Then, her skinny little legs were so short they had to stick straight out in front of her as she sat on the front seat beside me and held the eggs when we bought groceries. I called her “the best egg holder in Florida” every time. Now, when she sat beside me, her feet rested on the floor and she often had a pad and pencil in her lap, making a list of our errands in endearing irregular and large childish print as I spelled slowly.
“L – i – b – r – a – r – y, g – a – s,…”
“Wait a minute, Mommy.”
“Sorry. I’ll go slower. Are you ready? S—–t—–a—–m—-p—–s…”
Making Much of Little
Thursday was our grocery shopping and errand running day, and, as with other things, I worked hard to make the little I had to give her seem much. During the week, I asked her to add items to the list we kept on the fridge
“Please add ketchup to the list, baby. K – e – t – c – h – u – p.
I also purposely involved her in decision making.
“What flavor of jelly do you prefer, sweetie, and what kind of snack cake do you want for after school this week?”
And, of course, I talked about our weekly shopping trip both before and after it happened. When I took her to school on Thursday morning it was, “Don’t forget, we get to get groceries tonight!” and on Saturday morning, “I’m glad you wanted to try a different kind of jelly this week. You picked out a good one. This sure tastes good! ”
Our monthly adventure into true thrift
Our monthly trek to the u-pack-it bulk grocery, however, truly was an adventure. I didn’t have to work at making it seem so.
Jewel-T was on the other side of town and any trip beyond the sphere of our little suburb was unusual enough to feel special with a capital S by virtue of that fact alone. But not only that, for our monthly grocery stock-up trip we left early on Saturday afternoon with an empty car and we returned home with our car interior as well as the trunk stuffed with enough canned and boxed imperishables to feed us both for the next month.
It is truly hard to say who enjoyed the whole process more, Sharon or me. In childhood innocence, her smiling face and the twinkle in her eyes told me she felt we were rich to be buying so much food. As for me, having that much food stored up comforted me in a way so fundamental that I nearly cried each and every time, simply out of gratitude.