Kroger is turning into my meditative place, like an ashram with a deli. I seem to have a lot of epiphanies there–about peaches and crushes, parking lot rage, or canoodling in the pasta aisle. This week, I cried a little in the produce section after I made three loops and realized that the Sumo mandarins are gone again. Maybe FOREVER.
About a month ago, in the grayest gray of February that ever dared to gray, I got annoyed during a traffic jam in the produce section. You know when people just leave a cart in the middle of the aisle instead of parallel parking it? Grrrr. As I waited in my cloud of righteous indignation, an Asian grandmotherish woman waited for the produce manager to peel an orange and give her a sample.
“See how easy they peel? They don’t look like much but they have a great flavor. Real sweet.” He held a half of the orange in one gloved hand and offered her a wedge. As soon as she put it in her mouth, she began to smile and nod. Her husband got a plastic bag from the roller and started pawing through the bin of oranges. And still, I waited for them to move.
Because I was forced to wait, the aroma had time to get to my sniffy little piqued nose. Dang–that DID smell good. And it sure didn’t smell one bit like February. I grabbed four of the knobbly oranges with the weird sumoesque topknot thingy aroung the stem.
The next morning, I plopped down like a dirty snowman on the couch at the beginning of another gray day. As I peeled the Sumo, Carlos climbed up beside me and we shared bite after bite. I swear that orange kept me from crying that day.
At night, the oranges stopped me from snacking on sweet stuff. In the morning, they started my day off right. For a glorious week, I ate them morning, noon, and night.
The next week when I returned to Kroger, they were gone. I asked the produce manager if they had any in the back. I NEVER do that. He returned with the news that the Sumos were gone and they probably weren’t getting any more. They had been too hard to sell. Too many people looked at the ugly outside and passed them up for a dependable old navel.
I cried, y’all. I stood right there in front of the lunchbox sized apples and sank into a citrusy funk. My inner monologue was pretty much, “Oh, RIGHT. I forgot that I can’t have ANYTHING nice.” Yadda yadda February yadda.
I moved on to Cuties, but it wasn’t the same.
Then the next week, like magic, the Sumos were back. I spent scads of dollars on two bags and hid them in the car and in my office so the kids wouldn’t gobble them up. I know, that’s pathetic, but you do what you gotta do to make it through February. I stretched the Sumos until the calendar rolled over to March.
Maybe this weird new hybrid fruit was catching on! This week, I had my hopes up that Athens had seen the true path and the demand for Sumos would carry us until springtime.
Nope. They were gone. Again. I made three trips around the piles of grapefruit, tangelos, mandarins, lemons, ugli fruit…nope.
Before I could get to feeling too robbed, I heard an outside sound there inside the Kroger. Chirping. Up in the steel rafters, right above the produce section, a tiny sparrow flitted overhead.
I’m sure someone (probably the produce manager) thinks of that bird as a nuisance. I don’t. Sure, it’s gonna poop on something eventually, but there’s a narrow chance of getting pooped on just about anywhere you go.
That little bird cheered me up. It really doesn’t give a damn about whether there are Sumos this week or not. It makes a meal of whatever is left over or dropped. Imagine the plentitude it has foundinside that store! No cats, no hunger, no wind, no rain. Always warm and dry. We could look at it and think, “Poor thing is trapped in here, away from its natural home.” Or we could look at it and think, “Dude…Jackpot!”
It reminded me of that little bird in Bermuda that I wrote about in A Life Made of Crumbs. Gimpy, we called him, due to his little twisted leg. Every afternoon at four p.m., he hop-wobbled around the terrace at tea time, making a feast from the crumbs we dropped from our scones and cucumber sandwiches.
Well, this story has gone on so long, it’s the middle of March. So I guess I made it out of February, Sumos or not. Jackpot!