For all of our 37 years of marriage, I have been the lead grocery shopper. It would be unfair to say that I do all of the food buying. We figure that Brian has gone twice—even though neither of us has the foggiest idea of when those trips might have been.
So that’s why I was recently taken aback.
“I’ll go grocery shopping with you,” the man says.
I invited him to select among four likely store candidates, but he wanted me to choose. Walmart was perhaps too advanced for navigation with a novice, but I hadn’t shopped there in a while. Oh, who am I kidding? I wanted to see what the guy is made of.
For one thing, and there are others, when I go in Walmart, I think of every obscure thing we still need from the bottom of to-do lists past. A trip in there requires crisscrossing the place from the photo-printing section to housewares to pets over to clothing with a side visit to office supplies and a swipe through cards and magazines before circling back to the food section. When I go to Walmart, I am in there one month and a half. Or at least it feels that way.
This time, we only needed one foray outside of the food area, across the store to the pet section. This was a good opportunity to show off my special insider tip. Here it is for you: an employee once told me that the store-brand Ol' Roy is actually Purina. “It goes into Purina bags from one spigot and Ol' Roy from another,” he told me.
After wowing Brian with that helpful insight, and grabbing the Ol' Roy, we circled back to the food section. Brian was impressed with my knowledge of the store layout. The man needs to get out more.
We reached the canned-bean aisle and he was something like awestruck. How, he wondered, could there be so many different types of beans? In the pork-and-bean area alone were beans with maple, onion, vegetarian, original, home-style and even one that flaunted extra heat. As much as I love baked beans, I will have to admit that extra heat might not be wise in a bean. In fact, that was the one kind of bean that Brian expressly forbid. I looked over the rest of the options. No baked-bean fan himself, my husband generously offered, “I’ll treat you to one can.”
What a guy.
We were efficient and there were no in-store incidents. This was remarkable. As we pulled away from the parking lot, Brian said, “I’ll go with you every week.”
I said “Maybe you can even go by yourself.”
“I’m not ready to solo,” he said.
Week two found us in another grocery store, this time of his choosing. I like the prices there along with the fuel-discount points. However, all the banana bunches were yellow as the sun. We needed a bunch with a longer shelf life. I spotted a produce employee and asked if he had some green ones in the back.
As he went to check, Brian asked me, “You can do that? Ask him to go look?” Well, yes; I just did.
I think to Brian, it was the supermarket version of asking for directions. The guy returned with the goods and we continued on our way. I sent Brian after the eggs and milk. When he wondered where to find such things, I noted that a good bet would be under the large permanent letters on the wall that said EGGS and DAIRY.
He met up with me at the deli counter, his goods in tow.
“Did you check under the egg-carton lid to make sure they aren’t broken?”
“No,” he said as I performed the procedure.
Last week we tried store three. In the soda-pop aisle, I spotted a new-to-me product: Diet Coke with Lime. “Should we try it?” I asked.
Brian was skeptical. “I don’t know. It’s iffy. We might be flying too close to the sun.”
We lived large.
As we rolled along, Brian stopped by the dog-toy bin and rifled through it to find a toy for Reggie and there it rode, atop the bread, to the checkout. Who is this man?
We’ve actually enjoyed this time together hunting and gathering. We joke around. It almost feels like the days before kids. We don’t even talk about the kids. Who are we?
I have someone to help load the car, and he unloads while I set about putting things away. He can see firsthand what food costs. He was rather surprised, for example, to learn that the largest consumer-size can of name-brand coffee is a decent deal right now on special for $7.99. “Coffee costs that much?” He asks.
We have a traditional marriage. I joke that I’m in some ways a ‘50s housewife without the heels and Jell-O mold. So what? He’s the one who mows the lawn and fixes flats. It all evens out. He’s also the one who made the most money so I took on more of the home tasks to hold up my end.
He spent 40 years putting in long days at school and then spent his evenings standing in gyms monitoring kids or attending junior-high choral concerts while I was wiping down counter tops and helping our kids with homework. It was our life.
The truth is we are both glad that I was around the house more when he couldn’t be. I’ve loved working part time for many years and am grateful from the top down that it’s all worked out that way: grateful to the good Lord, to Brian, to my employer.
Each family has to figure out what works for those involved in the fold. What makes sense to one family seems foolish to another. It’s called life. And the evaluations continue as life changes. With Brian’s retirement, life is changing again.
I have friends who regularly shop with their husbands so this column is old hat to them. Heck, my father-in-law did all the family grocery shopping. For me, this new order where we shop together is surprising. Retirement does interesting things to people. Brian is just two months into this phase of life after 40 years of full-time hustle and bustle. Everything on the household scene seems to fascinate him. Can a wood shop be far behind? He has a Twitter account now. For real.
I plan to work a few more years, Lord willing. After I retire, who knows what I’ll do? I have some ideas but quite possibly, what I’ll do with my time will be something that I never saw coming. I sure never saw coming these regular supermarket trips with my husband. Or, that I would look forward to them.
Already, I feel like I’m on partial vacation. Nowadays, he takes care of the laundry, the car appointments and the odd jobs. He is the most relaxed I have seen him since BK (before kids).
You never know what’s in store or who is coming down the next aisle.
It might just be Brian.