There's something endearing about grocery lists. Jotted with hopeful intentions of replenishing shelves, cupboards and refrigerators, they tell stories. Writing stories is what I do.
I suggest they should be classified as a literary genre, rivaled only by short-short non-fiction or haiku. Documenting needs, trends, milestones, desires or outright cravings, these itemized logs that accompany store runs reveal lifestyles, personalities, joys and woes.
Reveling over perusing through stacks upon stacks of grocery lists, I marvel over revealing tidbits defining lives.
Happening upon an outdated one of my own, it's as though I'm reading ancient history. Among the standards, such as Kleenex, toilet paper, napkins and paper towels are graduation plates, cups, napkins, birthday candles, crepe paper and the like. Haven't done a graduation in years. Records of time gone by.
Years ago when hiking a wooded trail, I came across a tattered piece of paper bearing items for the store. I had no doubt by the way it was written, the lovely even flow of cursive, perfectly rounded o's and a's and e's, the succinctness of each word resting on its own line, and the legibility, that it was written by a woman.
While pondering the story behind it, I was delighted to read old timey words, like "oleo" and "catsup" and found it as interesting as excavating a farm dump filled with porcelain pots, iron bed frames, broken whiskey bottles, cracked saucers and Ball jar lids.
Speaking of stories, I wonder how my children would react if they only knew some of the choices I made as a kid. Sneaking cigarettes, trespassing on private property, swimming at the beach after dark and driving without a license, wrecking our family car while hitting the neighbor's and then barricading myself in my room, attempting to avoid my father's wrath. Time and denial prevent me from remembering others.
As we age, we face choices that carry a different type of danger and risk. Having surgery. Going through chemo. Traveling to faraway places. Speaking truth to power. Turning away from temptation. Ending a bad relationship. Daring to trust again.
Although not on the same scale, my recent piano competition comes to mind. I'm deciding whether or not to have a word with the judge, since I'm still reeling and discouraged from what I perceived as a harsh evaluation of my performance.
"You shouldn't be," my piano teacher, Arlene, encouraged.
"Adults taking piano lessons," I started in, "are not like little ones with nothing else to do than pound the ivories. We are distracted professionals working day and night, tethered by jobs, families, community projects and household responsibilities. We take piano lessons for enjoyment, to stretch our brains and to…"
"To fulfill something inside," Arlene said, perfectly finishing my thought.
"Yes," I nodded, "That's exactly right. We are doing something we've longed to do. And, when we go to contest, we're nervous, insecure and feel totally out of place. We tower over dozens of elementary and middle school girls in velvet dresses and patent leather shoes and boys in suit jackets and neckties," I rattled on. "Besides, we have to put up with odd smirks and long stares through raised eyebrows. I think we should be judged differently from the younger set, using another scale, a kinder, gentler one that takes into account how old, tired and worn we are."
Shopping lists, mistakes of the young and piano competitions – there's a thread in all of these stories somewhere.
Author Barry Lopez stated in his mythical adventure Crow and Weasel, "If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive."
If you find a story thread here, please care for it and then give it away.
2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at email@example.com and find her on FaceBook.