Who knew that a trip to the grocery store would unlock memories tucked away deep in your subconscious? That walking the aisles of verduras and pan dulce or noticing the familiar sight of a woman cutting up cactus would feel like a step back in time.
That instead of worrying about the 20 other things you need to do, you find you are somewhere else – in Mexico as a young girl on summer vacation accompanying a tía to el mercado.
The feeling surprises you because it’s not what you expected from a seemingly ordinary trip to buy groceries.
As it turns out, this is not a typical run to the store. Mom asked you to take her to Fiesta, a place where she could find comfort food, like the kind she had growing up – un plato de lengua, nopalitos y arroz (a plate of beef tongue, cactus and rice).
“You want some agua fresca with that too, right, Mom?” you ask her, as you stand in the food line admiring the large jugs of colorful fruit drinks. “They have watermelon, pineapple, lime…”
“No, Sprite,” she says, staying true to her taste bud preferences, authentic Mexican with a splash of American.
This is a place where outside you will find numerous vendors, like the shoe repairman who has worked his stand for the past 16 years. Sure, there are shops closer to home, but Mom trusts this guy to replace the Velcro strap on her zapatos. She’s used his services before.
“This is where I want to go,” she insists.
So you oblige.
This is also a place where stories are told. Where men, compadres young and old, stand outside in their sombreros and jeans, shooting the breeze about their jobs and their familias – the ones here and those left behind.
It’s where a woman has a puesto de elotes (roasted corn stand) that you can season with chile and top it with crema, just like you remember having on those cool nights in San Luis Potosi as you walked along the plaza.
And it’s a place where rancheras and boleros ring out as you scan the shelves looking for the detergent your mom asked you to get. It’s not there and normally you’d be annoyed, but you don’t mind because the music swells in the background.
Usually, you’re rushing to get through the grocery list and cursing under your breath when you realize you forgot to pick up something on the other end of the store. But on this day, you simply smile and push the cart forward, noticing items on the shelves that you can’t find in other stores.
Your mom waits for you in the dining area, relaxing and people watching, soaking in the atmosphere and relishing the taste of her meal. It’s not often she gets to relax like this. It’s not much, but it’s a break from the norm.
Outside, it is pouring rain and dreary, but in here the memories and familiar feelings the excursion has unleashed provide much needed comfort for a mother and daughter.