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I have long had a love affair with grocery stores (especially stores with free samples). This affair started when I was very, very young. In Pakistan, we mainly shopped at the Embassy Commissary. There, everyone knew our faces, our names, even which car was ours. I could even wander into the Commissary by myself, “buy” $50 worth of candy and simply sign a chit. No questions. (Side note: whatever happened to those delicious Lifesaver lollipops?! Bring them back!)

In our village in Scotland, it was no different. There used to be a tiny shop that was only open a couple of days out of the week. My friends and I made a habit of riding our bikes to the wee shop every day it was open. I don’t believe we ever bought more than a packet of Digestives or a bag of sweeties but it was somehow an adventure. On Skye, there were also grocery, fish and meat vans that came around to the different houses. We rarely stopped them but when we did, I wanted nothing more than to join my mother in the small van – probably in an attempt to get Digestives. I realize now the reason we seldom stopped the vans was because we made multiple trips a week into “town”. Dunvegan, the village 15 minutes from ours, had a handful of shops and three of them carried groceries of some sort. We always went into each one. On the one day a week (sometimes two) that we’d head into Portree (the main town on the island) we’d do our big shopping and get a treat for the ride home. It was/is always the last stop and the most talked about. You never know who you might see or what the tourists could be getting up to. In a small community, such gathering places provide for hours of commentary when you get home. 

I can fairly easily make the assumption that my whole family must love grocery stores. Now, when my family meets in Texas at Christmas time, one of us seems to go the grocery store every day. (My mom and I have even, at times, managed to make walking to the grocery store our daily exercise.) Maybe we have an addiction.

What I really think is that other than a source for food, grocery stores provide great entertainment. I seldom return from the store without some tale to tell. In this sprawling metropolis of the DMV (District-Maryland-Virginia) the grocery store is one of the few places where I observe characters and feel part of a community. One of the hardest things about moving from Virginia to Maryland when we got married was giving up my grocery stores. I still find myself taking trips down to my old stomping ground simply to grocery shop. When I walk in the doors of Trader Joe’s, I feel like I am back among friends. When I round the aisle with the cart and I hear a familiar voice greet me by name, I think, “I’ve come home again.” 

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