I don’t enjoy grocery shopping. John, on the other hand, is actually quite fond of it. To him, a stop at, say, Costco brings with it all sorts of possibilities. I never know what he might bring home over and above the carefully thought-out list I send with him. “Look at the deal I got on this cooler!” he’ll exclaim, or “We could use this [set of plastic picnic plates] [value pack bundle of dish towels] [sports team logo-emblazoned camping chair], don’t you think?”
I appreciate his zeal, if only because it means I don’t have to make the monthly trek to Costco myself. However, I am the one who usually does the weekly grocery shopping since John is often busy in his gardens. It’s not that I hate the chore; it’s just something I try to spend as little time doing as possible. Fortunately, I know the local Kroger affiliate like the back of my hand. My plan, always, is to walk my cart briskly through the store — head down to avoid the dreaded stop-and-chat with fellow shoppers — and not linger one single second longer than is necessary to get the job done.
Yesterday was no different, except for the smoke. We’re surrounded on three sides by areas experiencing rampant wildfires: British Columbia to our north, Oregon and California to our south and our own state of Washington east of the Cascades. Over the past couple weeks, we’ve had only two clear-ish days and even those were slightly hazy. Yesterday was the worst, with the wind blowing so much BC smoke down upon us, we could taste it.
While I’m grateful we’re not facing the flames firsthand like so many people have had to do, the smoke had me in a real funk when I arrived at the store. I tossed groceries into my cart at record speed, eager to get back to our house where we were keeping the windows closed as barricades to the foul air. Miraculously, I walked directly to a check-out lane with no line and was able to zip right through. I was on my way, next stop home sweet home.
Until, just a few feet from the exit, I found myself stuck behind a man and his 20-something-year-old intellectually disabled son. They were parking their cart at the carousel inside the store, and the man was letting his son decide which bag of groceries he’d like to carry to the car. After some consideration, the son pointed to the bag his father should carry and then picked up the other one.
“Whoa, that’s HEAVY!” he declared with unbridled delight.
He glanced back at me, grinning, and I smiled in return. After a bit of a double-take, he looked me in the eye and said, “Hello!”
“Hi,” I replied, and the three of us filed out the door, father and son in the lead.
Suddenly, the father stopped and told his son that I was his neighbor. It kind of startled me. I knew we didn’t live near one another — our house is in a private community and surely I would have recognized at least one of them. The son looked at me shyly, no doubt thinking his father must be mistaken, when the man asked if I live in Port Townsend.
“Yes, I do.”
“So see? She is our neighbor,” he said, eliciting yet another bashful grin from his boy before they sauntered on ahead of me. I could hear the man beginning to explain how we live in a small town and could tell where he’d go from there — that we’re all neighbors, to some degree.
I had already stopped at my car and after loading my grocery bags into it, I caught one last glimpse of the duo just as the son put his hand on his dad’s back and gave it a tender little scratch.
Despite the smoke, I couldn’t help but smile all the way home.