The Dimestore

I went grocery shopping yesterday. 

Exciting stuff to blog about, I know.  But if it makes any difference, I went alone… and I got to have Starbucks… and cherries were on sale!

So yesterday at the grocery store I wondered about my grandma.  Surely she could’ve taught me a thing about pinching pennies and trying to get the most out of her shopping trips.  Growing up during the Great Depression, after all, and making trips into town to buy groceries once a week or less! (I’m assuming here)  But for all of that, by the time we came around she never lacked good things in her home and wonderful food on the table. 

For example, Grandma had a cookie jar. You know… that one spot in her house that you would make a beeline for the second the screen door opened. It was just a red plastic tupperware bucket, but it was always so exciting to see what she had in there. Wafer cream bars, Nutter Butters… but my FAVORITE was when she’d have Oreos. Occasionally she’d buy the cheap kind. You know, that were made to look like Oreos, but you could always read the side and know they weren’t genuine before you even took a bite. I ate the other ones too. Or the ones with one side chocolate and one side white. But real Oreos were my favorite.  Perhaps she bought those special for us (I don’t remember the last time I was able to splurge on Oreos).  But then again… she was caught more than a few times with Oreo crumbs on her blouse. (Yes. She wore blouses)

When I met my grandma she was living in the same little town in Kansas that my family ended up settling in.  A spot along a north/south highway that stretches from Dallas, Texas to Winnepeg, Manitoba.  (And THAT, my friends, is what you did on road trips before there were DVD players in cars!)

The earliest grocery store I can remember from my childhood was at the end of mainstreet… I barely remember it, but it was there with shelves and coolers full of groceries and candy… and I think, Oreos.  Now it’s an antique store that is hardly ever open. 

Then there was the IGA.  It was in the county seat, a whopping 10 miles north, where just a few blocks off of the busy highway lay a courthouse square complete with red brick roads, a barber shop, a hotel, and STOPLIGHTS.  Scandalous.  We often accompanied grandma to the IGA.  Hmm…I’m not even sure if it exists anymore.

But my favorite place to go with grandma was the Dimestore. 

I never understood why she called it that.  Nothing in there was only a dime.  And, in fact, on the window it was very clearly painted “Five and Dime.”  But nothing was a nickel either.  Still, she called it the dimestore, and we loved it when she would take us there.

It was a small shop across from the courthouse in one of those big brick buildings all smushed together like what you’d see in a Western.  One long, dark room crammed with gifts, toys, stationary and such.  But the real star of the place was the old fashioned soda fountain where we would sit at the tall stools and slurp down chocolate malts out of styrofoam cups.

What made my grandma want to go there so often, besides buying us toys and malts, was beyond me.  However, I like to imagine that she had been going there since she was a little girl.  I imagine that was the only goody store in the county for a very long time and when her family would go into ‘town’ I picture them stopping at the bank, perhaps the courthouse, getting haircuts at the barber shop and finishing the day out at the Dimestore for treats before heading back to their home several miles away.

Yesterday in the grocery store I stood for at least 2 minutes in front of the shelves of peanut butter.  There was every kind of peanut butter possible- low fat, no fat, low sodium, natural, creamy, chunky, one brand, another brand, off-brand, organic brand, my peanuts are better than yours so I make better peanut butter brand.  I was frustrated.  And I suddenly longed for the simplicity of that dark musty Dimestore and a small chocolate malt. 

I love the idea behind those simple joys.  Buying just what you need.  Running a few necessary errands.  Spending time as a family.  And ending the day with a simple pleasure at a simple place.

I guess I could say Starbucks was my chocolate malt and Oreo yesterday.  The only thing I left behind was the family…

but that was kind of a simple joy, too.

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