Trader Joe’s is a place I haven’t shopped at for quite some time, before tonight. I don’t live very close to one, and I tend to do most of my shopping in produce markets or supermarkets closer to home. Most people are like that, I’m sure.
But tonight I had to pick up some ingredients to make chili, and a trip to Joe’s was in order. I’ve written about making chili before, and it’s one meal that’s always fun to throw together. You need vegetables, meat, beans, cheese, and whatever else seems to present itself. And tonight, my nine-year old was along to offer her assistance.
We had picked out some oyster crackers and a green pepper, and were moving on to get some ground turkey when I asked my helper to pick out an onion. Chili without onions isn’t even chili, in my estimation. So she asked “What kind?” and I told her “Sweet, just like you.” Whether she heard that or not, an onion was selected and put into our shopping cart.
We picked up some more things, and then proceeded to the checkout line. As the checker was ringing things up, he came to the onion and asked “What kind is this?” I then looked at my daughter, who was standing a few feet away.
In that moment, it occurred to me that shopping trips are a very mundane thing, unless they’re with someone special, and then nothing is mundane. I could watch paint dry with her, or her older sister, and it would still be something special.
She didn’t know any of that, though. She’s just going about the business of growing up, with a song in her heart and a gleam in her eye. And so I gave her a smile that caught her attention. She asked what I was smiling at, and I said “It’s the onion. It was either sweet or yellow, wasn’t it?”
She noticed that the checker and I were both looking at her, and she immediately became embarrassed. I guess the attention was more than she wanted, so she ducked behind me in a flash.
My teenager would just roll her eyes and wish she was someone else, if it were her in that situation. But my little one isn’t there yet, and part of me hopes that she takes her time in getting there. After those childhood ways are behind her, I likely won’t see them ever again. Each day where she’s still a little girl feels like a beautiful gift to me.
As she buried her face into my coat, I told the checker that the onion was closer to sweet than anything else, just like my daughter herself. He finished ringing everything up, the money changed hands, and we were on our way. And as we returned to the car, with the chili fixings now in hand, I realized she’ll always be closer to sweet than to anything else. And the chili was delicious, too.