Sunday, July 1, 2012
Bouts of homesickness attack me sometimes when I'm 500 miles away from my hometown where I grew up. But I rarely crave the familiarity of my parents' house or my friends' houses, or even my beautiful town nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Oddly enough, the location my melancholy most reliably craves is our local grocery store, Ingles. Ingles is a run-of-the-mill grocery store chain in the south. Some of the store locations have a pharmacy, and almost all of them have a movie rental section, a deli, bakery, meat counter, and florist. There is absolutely nothing exclusive about them; I could just as easily buy groceries at Bi-Lo or Walmart or Publix. But a visit home isn't complete without at least once meandering the aisles of the Ingles store about 2 minutes from our house. I make excuses to stop in and eagerly agree to run out to the store for Mom, just to walk through, smelling the faintly sour odor of the dairy aisle, the mint gum and Windex at the registers, the pungent aroma of the coffee aisle, and sweet smell of the fruit section. Hugging myself against the chill, I stroll through the freezer section, and at the meat counter I inspect the chicken gizzards and cow tongue and other body parts of livestock that only rednecks would eat. I gawk around to see how many cashiers are still there who have been working at Ingles for ten years, at least. And for some reason, like a metal detector, my fondness seems to grow the strongest when I'm in the dog food aisle, though I haven't quite uncovered the memory connected to that emotion. But why would a grocery store hold any sway on my emotions? Especially when there's nothing special about it. Maybe it's just the familiarity fostered by all the 'runs to the store' for that item Mom forgot to get, and Wednesday evening trips for gallons of milk after church. Maybe it's all the times I scrounged for quarters and went to buy a USA Today as a teenager, eager to read about other parts of the United States. Maybe it was the mystery of living in a small town, where you never knew who you might see when you turned the corner to the canned goods aisle--be it an ex-boyfriend, snobby church member, or neighbor. Or maybe it's because when I was home-schooled, the grocery store was the one place we went consistently, representing a small venue of unpredictability. Even now, when I feel that life has become too mundane, or I can't bear facing my lonely apartment, I'll take that road I've passed a million times, just to see what's at the end. Or drive to the end of Palafox Street to see what the fishermen are catching at the pier. Or ask a random stranger for a story. At all times keeping my eyes open for any little adventure that might pop up, always hoping that one is just around the corner. The small ones are usually the best. Perhaps that's why Ingles is so dear to my heart--because it will always represent that first awakening of small time, anytime adventure for me.