Maybe a strange metaphor

This morning, I said to my husband, “I think I liked it better when grocery stores looked a little bit beat up.” Richard didn’t know what I was talking about, not unusual when talking to me. But I explained.

When I was young, grocery stores weren’t shiny. They had been renovated in the optimistic late 50s, weathered bravely through the Bay of Pigs invasion and Kennedy’s assassination, and visited by mothers with Green Stamp books at hand…

I stop here, and realize I’ve gotten old enough to reminisce.

The stores of my childhood seem foreign even to me now. The genteel and struggling drug store with its soda fountain, sitting across the street from a corporate store that would itself later struggle to survive. The cluttered dime store, where my sister and I spent too much money on fragrances in child-friendly lemon and lilac. The department store we meandered through, its subdued light stealing the color from the merchandise.

I reminisce, and maybe I didn’t like the world of my childhood after all, the one reflected by those stores. It was as if my community had given up when the post-war bounty faded. Maybe we hadn’t learned our lessons in small towns, nor were we immune to the edict that rules the world: “Change or Die”. We did not open our eyes to the world or touch the hands of people who came from different places than we did. We stayed uninfluenced by new ideas. Our stores reflected us.

I will look at that shiny store differently now, as I try the cafeteria’s latest concept (which may fail, as new things sometimes do) and walk down the aisles where people say hello and not everyone comes from the same place I do.

Postscript — My home still has problems despite this metaphor. Although we have a university with an appreciable international student population, Black peoples still face discrimination and harassment here. Things are not shiny, but there is a glimmer of hope.

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