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I went to the grocery store yesterday afternoon. It was a gorgeous day in NoVa, sun was glittering, a cool wind was blowing and I was picking up a birthday cake for my little guy. One of the things I like to do at grocery stores, and I am sorry this will sound weird, is I love looking at what people are buying and then trying to figure out if I can tell their “story” based on their purchases. (If you have seen the new movie Date Night with Tina Fey, you will know what I am talking about as the couple in the movie does this same thing with people at restaurants. They like to look at other couples and make up stories.)

But I digress.

So yesterday I was in my merry mood, walking around and looking at people and figuring out what they were up to: a young man was trying to figure out what wine to buy. He looked like he was 12. He kept pacing up and down the wine aisle. I wondered if it was date night for him and he was trying to impress someone.

Next was the typical young mom with a kid under her arm, one in the plastic car at the bottom of the shopping cart and another one in her belly! She was buying, what else, diapers. Despite being pulled in two different directions by the kids, she was laughing and singing in a language I could not recognize. Occasionally bending down to kiss the kids. I wondered where the husband was? Fighting a war? At work as a lawyer? What would she cook him tonite? Or would he cook for her given that she was about ready to pop.

Then, I found her. This old woman, with a gentle mop of greying hair on her head. She was wearing a large red sweater, black pants and sensible shoes. She walked slowly, very slowly, which is actually how I got stuck behind her line. She was buying healthy frozen entrees from the freezer section. She had a list that she was having a hard time reading and a harder time crossing off. Her large fingers seemed not to be able to bend. Arthritis? I dont know. Maybe. I smiled at her. “I am trying to get all I need to eat this week. It is hard being alone,” she said. I just stared. She pulled another entree and put it in her shopping cart. Was she alone in this world? Did no one want to help her? “I cant cook anymore, not with these hands,” she said to me. She kept going and then came to the ice-cream aisle. She picked a few single servings of different ice-creams. I followed suit only picking larger boxes for my kids. “Ah, you have a family. I only get these for myself,” she said. Then she peeked in my cart, “A birthday cake! Who has a birthday today?” I told her about my son. “Yes, I thought it was a boy since you had the red car on there! He likes cookies? I see you have cookies? I dont eat those anymore not with my teeth. Only ice-cream for me at night,” she smiled. Then she pointed to all the vegetables in my cart and asked how many kids I had and how I got them to eat vegetables. “I see like roses,” she pointed to my flowers.

We began to walk to the checkout counter. “I love looking at people’s carts and seeing what they buy. You can learn so much about them, dont you think?” she said.

You certainly can, ma’am. You certainly can.

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