For the next few days until we leave our house for the last time, my love notes are dedicated to our neighbourhood and community we have built for the last ten years. They are love letters to places and people that have helped raise our children and who have supported our family in different ways. In ten years, we were able to create a small town feel in the middle of a big city.
Today’s bite-sized notes are addressed to various places and people who have supplied some of our food that fed us physically – fresh and local fare mixed with grocery runs.
Dear local farmer’s market,
The kids spent the morning making thank you cards and letters for you.
With images of sweet potatoes, honey bees, and strawberries, the kids wrote to their favourite vendors. The ones who we have visited every Tuesday from May to October for almost 7 years. The Honey Lady. The Sweet Potato Guy. The Smoothie Man. Mr. Cinnamon Bun and Mrs. Pepperette. The Melon gals. To name a few.
You have been a reliable homeschooling resource. Because of you, I have been able to teach my urban children where their food comes from, how it is grown, and what “seasonal” truly means. We have had some great discussions at the dinner table about whether we should continue to buy bananas because of your presence. They have taste tested a variety of apples, peaches, mushrooms, and melons and have an appreciation for growing their own little plant gardens from seed. They have had the opportunity to learn to budget and to meal plan with just using local foods. In addition to locally grown fruits and vegetables, you have surprised us with your other wares. We have bought Indian food, sprouted pea plants, chocolate mint, the fanciest stinky cheese, and bread named “Maria” from your stalls.
For the last six years, we have celebrated our first day of school with you. As kids and parents hurried to get to school, we leisurely strolled down the street to hang out and have our first lessons in the park next door to you. I remember pulling a wagon with two, then three children with one in the wrap. We would buy a couple bushel of tomatoes and bring them home for freezing. And we soon became known as that “homeschooling family” because we would be there to chat and to sample and to enjoy your presence on an ordinary Tuesday morning in the spring, summer, and fall.
We have made scavenger hunts centred around you and sang seasonal songs based on the treasures you keep. You have also been a place to go when I needed a break, buying myself that sweet potato golden brownie and shoving it down in sweet bliss while the kids were off looking for that elusive rainbow zucchini on the bottom of the shopping list. Thank for playing along. Wink. Wink.
We shared our love for you with other homeschooling friends with whom we would meet and sit on those park benches by the secret passage through the hedges. One friend introduced us to the service berry trees that lined your perimeter and it always made me giggle a little to watch our children pick the trees when they ripened while market-goers shopped for berries.
Like many things in our neighbourhood rhythm, I will miss you. Tuesdays are actually called Market Day in our house. Thank you for being a 10 minute walk away. A 10 minute walk to fresh food and familiar faces…
This year they are changing the way you look. They have ripped up the grass in the centre where the vendors used to set up. There is a little more concrete. You are still a work in progress and we may not see you finished any time soon. But goodbye and we love you.
Dear local grocery store ladies and gentlemen,
Today the kids also made thank you notes to you. You beautiful people who have spent the last ten years watching my kids grow as we shopped at our local grocery store.
You are wonderful cashiers, customer service staff, stock people, bakers, deli and cheese staff, and managers that have made grocery shopping an amazing experience.
Yes. You heard me right. I had five young children and LOVED going to the grocery store for a decade. This was because the people that work at our local grocery store became our extended family.
There were times when I was exhausted and you held my crying baby or gave a balloon to a toddler distracting them from a tantrum. There were times when I was functioning on so little sleep that I couldn’t remember why I was there and you helped me find what I needed through guess-and-test and charades. You signalled me over to the express checkout even when I had more than eight items (more like 300 items) because the kids were starting to get restless or the baby needed to nurse and you didn’t flinch when people complained. When we had extra long chats and you talked to the kids individually at the checkout, and the customers behind us would start grumbling, you ignored them. You always had our back.
You saved 50% off items for me. You directed me to the organic items on sale even though you thought I was crazy trying to feed a family of seven paying an arm and a leg for this food. You helped me search high and low for Borax when we needed it for a science experiment. You took time to listen to my third daughter ramble on about her fourth birthday party even though you had about a million boxes of crackers to stock. You gave us all hugs every time you saw us. You gave my fourth daughter free cookies at the bakery when she went to get the sourdough sliced. You were the village aunties and uncles I needed in the middle of winter when all I could manage was to get four snowsuits on to go to the grocery store.
And you knew our names. You knew each and every one of our names.
It was not hard to be a young mom of five in that grocery store. There was no judgement. No one made assumptions. You only showed compassion and support. Everyone knew we homeschooled and looked forward to our daily visits in the morning when the store was empty. While we homeschoolers worry about letting our kids out of sight in fear someone may “report them,” the grocery store was their safe haven where everyone took care of them. And lately I would sit and have coffee and chat with one of you while my kids did the shopping.
This is Lorraine. We love her. She opens a cash register up just for us every time we go so we don’t have to line up. Her son just got married. She is an amazing woman. She’s a young mama too.
I remember watching my daughter try to order at the deli. I don’t think the deli guy could see her and she wasn’t speaking up. Customers kept ordering ahead of her. I watched a manager come out of nowhere and help her himself. He noticed her standing there and I could see him asking her what she needed and he went behind the counter and took care of the order himself.
You taught my children that the world is a loving place and that they matter, that their existence matters to you.
And today I cried in the middle of this busy grocery store. I cried because I told them all how much I appreciated their small acts of kindness and patience and how grocery shopping with five children is a feat in and of itself and how they made it such a pleasant one. We said goodbye and hugged. You called people on the P.A. to come say goodbye and all of our favourites came off their break to give my children free chocolate and the biggest of bear hugs. You took our picture and placed our thank you note and our pic on the staff bulletin board and expressed how nice it was to hear something good instead of another complaint.
When I first entered that grocery store ten years ago, my goal was to feed my family’s bellies. What I didn’t expect was how you all would feed their hearts and spirits too.
Thank you all and we love you.
100 days of love notes…