Flashback on Aisle 4

mother shopping for groceries

I know it’s not him. Really, I do.

I don’t need you all worrying about my mental state, thank you.

And yet, there he is.

Halfway down the aisle, staring at the rows upon rows of crackers and snacks.

His mom obviously sent him to find something on her list, her way of letting him be a bit “big” while still accompanying her to the grocery store. He’s at that age when kids need to break free just a wee little bit — and being sent on an errand to the other side of the grocery store is only as far as a mom can bear to let him go.

He looks like he’s probably 11 years old, 12 at most. Long, lanky arms and legs that probably grew longer since he entered this store. I know how the mind of a boy that age works. It’s highly likely that while he initially remembered what brand and type of cracker his mom wanted, those details have now been replaced with the memory of a funny YouTube video or an idea for a brilliant new Minecraft build.

And so he stares at the cracker section.

As I move closer to him, his momentary trance snaps and he glances up at me, then scoots apologetically to the side to make room for my cart.

Nope. He’s not my boy.

I wanted it to be him. Just for a day, maybe just for one shopping trip.

I have shopped in this grocery store several times a week since he was 2 years old. Endless conversations about dinosaurs or books or Legos have taken place between these four walls. He charmed the cashiers from the very beginning, and his attempts to teach strangers waiting in line about which dinosaurs lived in which prehistoric periods were always met with a smile.

And when he got older, I would send him off to hunt down something on my list. It made him feel big — bigger than his little sister, who then took over the business of the endless conversation.

And this boy standing right here feels like a ghost to me. Like someone rewound the reel of a long-lost episode of my life. I remember my son so well at that age, but as he grows farther away from being 11 or 12 or even 16 I find those memories grab me at unexpected times, filling me with emotions that aren’t usually on the surface.

I wonder where the time went.

My boy shops at the grocery store hundreds of miles away from here these days. All by himself.

He’s big.

Pretty sure he isn’t chatting up the other customers or teaching the cashiers about dinosaurs these days.

I haven’t seen him in three months.

He’s coming home tomorrow.

And I just might invite him along on a grocery store run. But I won’t be sending him all over the store to collect crackers and paper towels and baby carrots.

Because I would love an endless conversation with my boy right now.

Comments

  1. Wiping the tears off my keyboard.
    I often see little (like toddler) boys at the grocery and think of my now 15-year old son, remembering what he was like then, the sound of his little voice that turned r’s into l’s. But I never really think about the fact that, in ten years, I’ll be looking back on him as he is now at 15 and thinking about how young he was. He seems so grown up to me right now.
    I hope you have a great visit with your son, Sherri, and that he talks your ear off.

    • Oh, those toddler boys are a killer. I see him everywhere, I really do. And I know you get that, and will be living this in a few short years. And yes, he’s been very chatty since he arrived on Friday. xo

  2. I’m crying, but I knew I would be as soon as I clicked on this. I love your words, and I love the way you speak about the missing him without making it melodramatic or making it seem like you don’t adore the young man he has become. Enjoy your time with him this weekend <3

  3. Can’t speak.

    Mine comes home Wednesday.

    xo

    • Oh, Wednesday can’t come soon enough, then! Enjoy your boy, and the house filled with boy banter. I am finding that one of the things I miss the most is the banter between brother and sister. xo

  4. :'( Beautiful, powerful

  5. I hope you have a great time with him. I loved this post!

  6. So lovely. Have had similar flashbacks. Won’t see my boy until Christmas break; he’s across the country and Thanksgiving break is too short a turnaround. Sigh.

    Have a really lovely weekend with your boy.

    • Oh, that distance is hard! But yes, not enough time for a quick trip really. I hope you get lots of time with him over Christmas break. It sure is nice when they come home for a while…

  7. I read this a couple of days ago and just came back to it again. I was thinking about it this morning for some reason. I think because I took photos of my kids this week and as I was going through them (this morning) I was thrown aback at how fast time has gone, and how my oldest is close to not being a kid anymore. And I remembered your words.

    Thank you for giving me a glimpse into how this will go someday. I’m certainly not ready yet…

    xo

    • Sometimes the realization that they are growing up just hits you like a punch to the gut. Thank you for reading…xo

  8. So moving. My boy is the tween in the cracker aisle now. This reminds me to cherish those Minecraft and Guinness world record conversations while they are walking through the store with me.

    • Oh, the conversations! Yes, enjoy them… but also tune them out when you need a break. And my college kid STILL talks about Minecraft, sorry to tell you! xo

  9. Wow, Sherri. This post is just beautiful. I loved this: “Long, lanky arms and legs that probably grew longer since he entered this store.” I loved the whole thing, really.

    I would say get this thing published somewhere in addition to here, but so many places want original content. Still, if you happen to find a place that isn’t as restrictive, do it. This piece needs a larger audience than you’ve already got.

    I hope you have a wonderful reunion with your son, grocery store or elsewhere. And Happy Thanksgiving, my friend!

  10. Knew I would cry, but then knew it would be a good cry.
    So went ahead and read your beautiful words, from your lovely heart.
    And I cried … and its okay 😉

  11. So lovely, my friend. But then, it always is.

    xoxo

  12. Oh my, but yes! I miss my boy so much. He was home for Thanksgiving and the bestest moment was the part when we had to part and he whispered into my ear, “We just don’t have enough time to talk anymore.”

    Enjoy your boy!

  13. I didn’t read this alone. Ten-year old boy feet were in my lap while he read a book. Seventeen year boy was gently turning the pages of a science book across the room. Fifteen-year old boy continued to ignore a buzzing cell phone from another room and lively eight-year old girl reminded me that we still have a lot of years of parenting ahead of us. I’m so unbelievably thankful for that, yet after I read your wise and powerful words, I peeked over to our biggest boy and could barely see him through the tears. It all goes by so fast! Thank you for the reminder to treasure and soak up the times we have. And to listen when they talk our ears off! God bless!

  14. Oh dear. I don’t even know how I will handle it when mine get big and grow up and move away, even though I am far from being a great, attentive (non-distracted) mom right now! O_o

  15. Do sweet! Even looking at old pictures of my kiddos will trigger these kinds of thoughts for me. Where does the time go!?!

  16. Ack! Instead of sending my son off to find something on my list, I now send him to the grocery store by himself with the whole damn list.

    What am I thinking?
    I need to go with him every single time until he is gone.
    (And make him tell me about dinosaurs. I’m pretty sure he still remembers it all.)

  17. Just beautiful Sherri! As you know my family consists of the Bonuses. Three girls and one boy. And I came along during the teen years. Despite this I cried when my stepson moved out – watched him drive off until I couldn’t see his car anymore. I cried when he got engaged and when he got married last April. He asks us for advice on proposing, marriage, recipes. I am so lucky to have him in my life as well as our girls.

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