It is funny what triggers your memory.
I walk in the store to pay for gas and I am as excited as a kid when I see a glass bottle.
All of a sudden I am seven years old and have been sent across the road to Freda’s.
The official name on the front of the store was Hunt’s Grocery.
Most of the time, we just said we were going to sit on the store porch.
We didn’t have to specify, there was only one.
And most of the time we just sat.
It didn’t seem like we had enough money to stay inside long.
And if you did, Mrs. Freda was bound to get onto you.
My first destination was the drink box.
I loved to open it up and stick my head in it. I can still smell the cold metal.
Drinks always seemed to be just beyond the reach of my arm.
It felt like I had to tiptoe to reach one.
About the time I had cold wet glass in my hand, I was already in trouble for leaving it open too long.
Then I would love to wander around dark aisles and stare at racks of Goody hair accessories that I did not know how to use. It seems like nobody else did either, because they were dusty.
If someone was at the register to distract her, I could make it back to the scales and the rack where you could tear off the butcher paper.
Those were fascinating. I have tried to think of a reason to purchase one.
Maybe a lifetime supply of gift wrap in butcher paper? The Christmas tree would look like I gave everyone a pack of hamburger meat.
I may have just found a reason!
One particular day Mother sent me across the road to put something on her charge account which we called our “ticket”.
Yours truly gets the bright idea to charge a bottle of fingernail polish (of all things) to Momma’s ticket.
Mrs. Freda looks about 9 feet tall on the other side of the counter.
“Did your mother give you permission to charge that?”
I lied and said “Yes”.
“Yes what?….” Double trouble.
I forgot to say “Yes, mam”.
I got out to the road, checked for cars, took a deep breath and braced myself to run across the road barefoot.
As the outside temperatures increased, so did my speed in crossing the road.
When I proudly gave mother her purple-brown fingernail polish, she was not impressed.
She told me to go right back over there and take that back.
Talk about a walk of shame, hanging my head and facing Mrs. Freda.
She was smug as she said, “Your mother didn’t say you could buy it, did she?
Over the years, Freda seemed to grow shorter and not so scary.
It was probably because I remembered to say “Mam” to her even if I said it to noone else.
She would rock on the porch and talk to whoever was in the next chair.
I would sit on the back corner and eavesdrop.
You could find out lots of things on that porch.
Who was fighting, honeymooning and drank too much. We shared everyone’s business but our own.
I think that was a rule.
If I could go back, I would run behind the mosquito truck and breathe in all the carcinogens again.
I believe the smoke must have helped our immune systems.
I would just love to go back to the store porch for the advice of everyone and better yet, I would love to ask for a few more memories. Tell me more.
There are so many things I forgot to ask.
When the cars go by faster now, noone is there to fuss about their speed.
It is an empty ghost of a building.
Don’t they know there should be a historical landmark sign there?
It was our community center, our neighborhood watch, and etiquette training classroom.
But mostly it was just ours.
It belonged to Mrs. Freda, but she shared it with everyone who crossed the road.
Here’s to dusty dark shelves, metal containers and paper sacks.
I wish I could shop there again just long enough to get in trouble.
Don’t laugh, or it makes it worse-