But the traffic on that road is terrible and it's right in the middle of a long stretch of commercial property, so there is no intersection to make getting in and out easier. And often, I'm in a hurry; to get to work, to get home, to pick up a kid, to hit the gym, the drycleaner, the bank. So I sit in my car and admire the vibrant fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I even get that peculiar little zing at the back of my jaw. But I don't stop.
But yesterday, I did. I don't know why. Traffic was no less troublesome and no intersection had appeared magically overnight. Perhaps it was because I had no particular place to go and no particular time at which I had to be there.
The tomatoes outside were warm from the sun, smooth to the touch and firm with just a bit of give to them when I squeezed gently. Perfect. I carried them inside to pay for them and browse through anything else that might tempt me. The proprietress was in a sunny corner to one side of the cash counter. She was bent over with her back to me. She offered a cheerful "Hello" and assured me she would be with me in a moment, but she did not look up from her task.
I told her I was in no hurry and would like to look around for a moment anyway.
The summer squash were breathtaking; plump, golden yellow and unblemished. It was almost impossible to believe that they were of the same genus as the pale, sickly, scarred little things I had brought home from the grocery store last week. The same was true of the zucchini; a particular favorite of mine. I selected several containers of each, as well as a few avocados and a cantaloupe that looked absolutely perfect; neither too soft nor too hard. And it was.
I carried them all the the counter and then I saw what the had so fully commanded the attention of the slight, tidy woman who ran the place. It was a child in a large chair, with pillows and blankets tucked all around, despite the oppressive heat outside. There was a hose snaking from beneath the blankets, which fell away slightly, disturbed by the spastic motions of barely visible limbs; pale and tender like little dandelion stems. Brilliant green eyes rolled sightlessly in her head, which was topped by a shock of remarkably abundant and enviously glossy blonde hair. Her cheeks were full and furiously pink. Over to the side a machine hissed rhythmically.
Then I remembered my last visit. Could it have been so long ago??
The woman noticed me notice the child. She stiffened slightly. I couldn't see it, but I could feel it. It was pre-anger, and it made me sad. I searched desperately for something to say. Something not stupid, not trite, not offensive, not dismissive...oh god what am I supposed to say??????
"I see someone has gotten the best seat in the house. What a lovely spot for a lovely young lady."
A slight lift of the eyebrows told me she was surprised, but I didn't know exactly why.
Then she smiled. "She loves the sunshine. It makes her happy."
"How old is she now? I haven't been in here since she was just a baby."
"She's six. Growin' like a weed. And spoled rotten!" (not a typo, that's how she pronounced it.)
"Well, it's a Grandma's right to spoil, isn't it?"
"Yes, it shore is. And she don't lack for it neither."
"Well, good for you. I don't have grandchildren yet...."
She interjected here, "Lord I hope not honey, you're just a young thang yet!"
I laughed. "I'm older than you think. I could be a Grandma!"
She raised her eyes heavenward in an expression that I took to mean, "God forbid!".
"Anyway, I'm sure when that day comes....far, far, far in the future (she laughed)....I'll spoil my grandchildren terribly too."
"Oh honey, you just don't know how much your gonna love them younguns".
She looked over at the girl, who was making a tuneless little humming noise. Her face went soft and she sighed ever so slightly. Then she shook her head and turned back to me.
"That'll be fourteen dollars even."
I paid her and thanked her. She said, "Come visit us again soon." I promised I would.
I thought about that woman and her granddaughter the rest of the day. She made me feel ashamed in a way I didn't really want to think about, but couldn't seem to not. I have boys who can walk and talk and go to the toilet and dress themselves. They can run and jump and think and create and question and reason and argue. I complain that they don't appreciate me, but the truth is, I don't appreciate them either. Just because they're mine and they're whole and they're healthy.
I got more for more my money than some lovely squash and juicy melon. There's a sign at the road that says "Boiled Peanuts Inside". I think she should change it to say...."Perspective Within."