shopping day

My four year old has learned the days of the week song at preschool, and so lately he’s all about what day it is. Sunday, MONday, Tuesday, WENsday, Thursday FRIIIday, Sat-ur-day.*

Yesterday was Wednesday, and it got me thinking about one of my fondest memories from childhood – shopping day with my grandmother Belle. Every so often, I would be lucky enough to go along on the weekly shopping trip and man, did I love those days! They were just the most fun, ever.

Every Wednesday morning, my Nanny would get moderately dressed up. Not church-level dressed up, which always involved lipstick in very bright colours and often a jacket / skirt combo, but going-to-town dressed up. Slacks, a nice blouse, good shoes. Her younger sister Ruth would drive over to pick her up. Ruth’s car was always really, really clean. Her cars always had “new car smell”, even after she’d been driving them for a while. No cracker crumbs on the seats or mud on the floor, oh no! I loved how plushy the seats were and how the seatbelts in the back row felt brand new and shiny.

First stop was always Zellers. They insisted on getting there first thing in the morning – usually before the store even opened. (Side note: department stores didn’t open until 9AM back then. That’s hard to fathom now, looking back on it. I’m not certain, but I don’t think the town’s three grocery stores opened much earlier than that.) They’d park as close to the entrance as possible, and go stand by the doors.

Thus would start a complex dance between the store employees, my grandmother, and my great-aunt. Belle and Ruth would take turns pressing their faces up to the front door. They would look pointedly at their watches. The store employees would see them, turn their heads, and scurry away. Generally, someone would come unlock the door and let them in at around five minutes to nine.

I’d get sent to the toy department to wait for them to do their shopping. Remember that, my friends? The toy department at any major department store in the 1980s always had several unattended children of all ages, pushing all the buttons that said “try me” and just hanging out while their parents shopped. This was not only normal, it was encouraged! Great advertising for the various toys, it kept the kids away from all the breakable stuff in housewares, and the adults were more inclined to linger if their kids were off playing instead of whining that shopping is boooo-ring.

After the Zellers run would come grocery shopping – always at the IGA. (There’s another blast from the past! I’m pretty sure IGA doesn’t exist anymore, any more than Zellers does.) The IGA in Bridgewater was pretty beat up. The floor slanted noticeably toward the front of the store so you couldn’t let go of your cart or it would roll away, picking up a fairly good head of steam before it crashed into a pyramid of cans or a tower of boxed powdered laundry detergent. There was a rack of paperback books at the front of the store, but otherwise, it was just food.

I loved grocery shopping with Nanny because she’d let me put whatever nutritionally-devoid garbage I wanted into her cart – stuff I was never allowed to have at home. Chef Boyardee ravioli, Froot Loops, Caramilk bars, bologna for my favourite sandwiches with Hellman’s mayo and white bread, pink cream soda.

She’d usually let me buy a book, too.

We’d always stop at the courtesy counter to buy my grandfather’s cigarettes – a carton per week. Then we’d head for the checkout line and Nanny would gather up her “newspapers”; The National Enquirer, The Weekly World News, The Star; all tabloids, all freaking awesome reading.

“It’s trash, Hannah,” she’d say, “don’t believe a word of it.”

We’d be home by 11AM. We’d carefully check all the grocery bags in the trunk to make sure Ruth and Belle each got their own stuff. I’d help Nanny put her groceries away and then she’d make me lunch. I’d eat my bologna sandwich and drink my cream soda while I watched cartoons until The Price is Right came on.

I miss my Nanny, something fierce. What I wouldn’t give to go shopping with her one more time.


*To the tune of “My Darling Clementine”. It’s in your head now, isn’t it? You’re welcome.


7 thoughts on “shopping day

  1. Also, in that Zellers there was the pet section next to the toy section and I’d go watch the fish. One year I convinced mom to get me an aquarium for my birthday and I remember bringing home two gold fish (one was calico) in those little plastic bags all the way home to Liverpool. Poncho and Lefty we called them 😛


    • I had a goldfish from that pet section, too! For my 8th birthday I asked everyone for money instead of presents, and I spent a good chunk of it on a starter kit. Frank the Goldfish lived happily in his bowl for a good many years. He was awesome.


  2. SO MUCH TO SAY. I miss my grandma too, and this post made me miss her more. The papers! Oh god, Grandma loved The Star and Woman’s World. Sometimes I see Woman’s World and I want to pick it up just to see how I can lose ten pounds by next week and simultaneously make a cake that looks like the American flag. And Zellers! The pet section! The toy section! I’m sure I bought my first makeup there. The Skillet restaurant, we rarely ate out and I’m not even sure if I ate there, but I remember it so well. I remember eating bologna and pickle sandwiches, and watching The Price is Right. I still love The Price is Right, if I had the time I’d watch the hell out of it. A NEW CAR!!!


  3. This is such a great memory. In my case, it was my maternal grandfather who read the tabloids. Nothing else about him suggested he’d read those (he was Irish-American and drove a truck all his life) but he did love his Hollywood gossip.


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