Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Humble Needful Thing

This two-wheeled folding grocery cart is one of the oldest items I own. In the 1970s when I left home and started working, before I owned  a car, carrying home groceries or schlepping laundry to and from the laundromat was troublesome. A backpack was not spacious enough. A duffel bag I could only drag along the sidewalks until it tore. I lived in a mean city far from anyone I knew, and it wasn't very smart for a tiny woman to carry in her arms through the night streets 30 pounds of stuff stacked so she couldn't see ahead of her. One terrible evening -- youth is full of such moments -- I was carrying three paper grocery bags and on the two-mile walk home a sudden thunderstorm soaked and shredded the bags. Items spilled and rolled all over the sidewalk into the gutters. It was awful; I couldn't afford to lose any of the items. There was no one to call. I have never felt so alone in life as at that moment. I knocked at some doors thinking to ask for some bags, or maybe for someone to call a cab. Don't remember what happened next except....

I told my mom about this and next time she visited she brought this folding grocery cart, which cost $20. It had a bright orange plastic liner. I thought it was for old ladies but it saved me much misery. It has been dragged behind me on city streets, on gravel road shoulders, through snowy shortcuts, and during moves (I lived in 10 different places in 10 years). Somewhere the liner tore and was discarded.

I got my first car when I was 34 and my own washer and dryer, finally, when I was 44. The grocery cart has been neglected in the Divine garage for 11 years, getting a bit rusty and bent, used only to contain broken-down cardboard boxes for recycling. Tonight I took it out, cleaned it, unbent the rods and oiled the wheels for tomorrow's outdoor market. I'm bringing a friend who's just had her hip replaced. Because she can't carry heavy things and I'm no good at it either, I am glad I kept this because now, as an old lady, I can appreciate it fully. Thanks, Mom. And you can still buy one for $20.

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