What they don’t know is that it reproduces the memories that send us to our hearts pantry when we’re hungry for the remembrance of joy.

My grocery cart was filled from top to bottom. He stood behind me with four tubes of toothpaste.

“Sir, please feel free to go ahead of me.” I offered.

“Oh, no! You go right ahead.” he replied with a smile.

Though wearing earbuds to cover the noisy surroundings he began talking as I unloaded the cart.

“You know, when my wife and I were younger a cart filled like that would cost around $30.” he began.

I laughed but wasn’t sure how to respond. My mind told me to say “Wow, I can’t imagine” but at the same time it made sense so I could imagine. I ended up just laughing.

The cashier was a stand-up comedian amped up with a respectable dose of speed. He had a joke for every item he scanned and between the joke and the scan the girl putting things in the cart could not keep up with him. His name was Mike M. I only took notice of his tag because I felt applause was in order but also wanted to personalize the thanks after he handed me the receipt. The girl adding things to the cart was talking to me at the same time the cashier was making jokes, to explain that he unlike her prior scan and bag partner was as quick as his joke-making all while my toothpaste buddy simultaneously transmuted to cashier heckler. I felt flushed, was on my 3rd listen of Lovesong from The Cure and for a second wasn’t sure if I purchased tickets for this event.

To escape that Twilight Zone moment I looked down at my hands to count my fingers. It was something a psychologist taught me long ago, an imperceptible but purposeful narrowing of my field of vision when an environment because of noise or number of people feels overwhelming.

In the middle of my count my toothpaste friend came to walk next to me as I headed towards the exit, to share that he was on his way to his youngest daughter’s birthday party then looked at his watch and said, “Oops, I’m late” while laughing.

“You know what though? I don’t care. I’m seventy-eight. What’s there to care about? Nothing.” he asked and answered.

“Hmm, I could see that.” I replied. Could I?

“She’s forty-five. My youngest. My oldest is fifty.” he continued, still smiling.

Wondering briefly if I’d pass out from the heat, I gave him a quick once over and decided he looked much younger than seventy-eight. I made a comment something along those lines and he smiled.

Then off we went our separate ways, me carrying goods to feed mouths and him armed with paste to keep mouths clean. Driving home I considered maybe that’s what parenting was all about.

Providing sustenance, encouraging laughter and pretending that aging is free of anxiety, full of wisdom and absent fear until developing the conviction that what matters most of all is doing whatever necessary to maintain a smile, regardless the time…