When I was growing up, my Mom did the grocery shopping. We primarily went to a store called Liberals. It was located in the Forest Park Plaza in Dayton, Ohio.
That is just where we always went. For as long as I can remember. We would pile into that old greenish-gold station wagon, and head to the grocery. We knew all the aisles. We knew where the green beans were, and the toilet paper, and the milk. It was like the back of our hands.
We recognized a lot of the people shopping there. We used coupons. The cashiers called us by our first names. And if we had something on the checkout aisle that was on sale, the cashier would open up a secret drawer underneath her money drawer. It was filled with sheets of coupons and a pair of scissors. She would scowl down over her horn-rimmed glasses, roll her eyes ever so slightly, and cut the 25ç coupon for the Wonder Bread.
We were ever so grateful. To her. To Liberals. Our grocery store. A place to buy your Kahn’s Bologna and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise with complete certainty. The carts were slightly rickety and we liked it that way. It made for better games of bumper carts. It was good to be shopping at Liberals.
But then, right across from the Putt-Putt Golf Course, something catastrophic happened. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we should have seen it coming. A Mega-Krogers opened. It was crazy. Like nothing we had ever seen before. Neon lights. Bagel bins. Free samples. A deli like you would not believe, with Pimento Cheese and Pasta Salad. All sorts of bells and whistles. It was huge. It was like Hollywood in there. Taj Mahal. We were thrilled by the shear selection of frozen foods. So we went. Oh. We would still go to Liberals from time to time, but not nearly as much.
Apparently, this was true with a lot of other people too. And before long, Liberals put a “Going Out Of Business” sign on their big glass window.
It wasn’t long until they locked their doors for good.
And we were sad. We loved our store. Our Liberals. But it was gone.
Krogers got very crowded all the time. It started getting dirty, and not as well stocked. And the Honeymoon was over. We really, really missed our old store then. But Liberals was no more.
And you know? How many times has this happened to us in life? Our treasured car? Or favorite brand of Iced Tea? Or our best pair of scissors? Something happens, and it is gone for good.
Yet, more importantly. It could be a some ONE and not a something. This happens to all of us. We lose a friend, a parent, an aunt, a child, a pet. Maybe we have regrets about things that we did or did not do. And maybe not. But one day, the sign goes up in the window, and the door is locked.
And we wonder how it happened. But it did.
The thing of it is. Some days…. I think as long as we remember, we have them.
The door might be locked, but we still can visit that place, in our minds, and look through those windows, any time we want.
No. It won’t be the same. But at least we can call on the familiarity of the place. The memory. The love. And we can be sure that the Ho-Hos will be in Aisle Three. Right where they belong.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
― Kahlil Gibran
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow