Robin grew up in Franklin County, Missouri, with four brothers and a family of pets named after the characters on the Andy Griffith show. She is mom to three children and grandma to three. She’s been married twice. The second is the better one.

I have issues with bulk food.

My dad was the “King of Big Cans of Vegetables.” I don’t know where he got the industrial tubs of corn and pork and beans he used to bring home all those years ago, but I remember mom hefting them up onto a wooden plank/shelf in the basement. 

Yellow letters spelled out “CORN.” Once the can was opened, we had that corn for every meal, from warmed kernels of mushy gruel to corn fritters.

The pork and beans were inside a can whose label was the dull, sickly red of old scabs. It was dotted with oval blobs that looked like the red corpuscles in a grade school science filmstrip.

You can imagine the horror when this can was opened. My brothers thought it was great fun to expel the effects of those beans.

Anyway, I decided it was time to get past my past and try bulk shopping, including big cans. All my friends had the same advice for me:

“Sam’s has great bargains if you buy a lot at once.” “Their frozen stuff is really good if you have a freezer to hold it.” It sounded like a thrifty possibility.

I got a membership card, showed it to the greeter and grabbed a cart.

The place was crawling with shoppers. These were consumers. They were here to pack their trunks with substantial foodstuffs. I felt intimidated by their exuberance; I was strolling along the aisles, leaning against my cart and browsing. Everybody else was GRABBING.

While I stood, transfixed and in awe at the sight of bundles of toilet paper huge enough for a battalion latrine, shoppers around me were scurrying, bending and lifting those bundles like refugees at a plane drop.

It was inspiring to see senior citizens flinging giant bottles of cranberry juice across their backs and into their carts. Frail-looking older women had little trouble handling hulking bags of cat food. 500-count paper plate packages flew into carts with Frisbee-throwing agility by arms that wobbled with the effects for minutes afterwards.

Meanwhile, I was testing my fourth grade division skills. I was trying to decide if the 24-pack of paper towels was really a good buy. I wished for a calculator, and I knew I must look like an amateur. I was actually debating a purchase in a store whose draw was “cheaper by the twp-dozen”. 

I love Big Red gum. But did I love it 17 packs-worth? Would I chew it all up before it got hard and stale? And 17 was way hard to divide. I rolled on.

I finally got to the frozen food section. Glass doors whumped open and shut in frenetic rhythms that made the edges of my hair fly up. There were hunks of meats and boxes of meals there that I’d never seen before. I chose some things that looked pretty on the outside (in defiance of Dad’s Big-Can pictures) and left the area before I was trampled by the more seasoned Sam’s shoppers. By the time I got to the checkout, I had pounds of food, cardboard and those pretty pictures. My heels were smoking from the miles of selling floor I had traveled, and my cart had frozen fog wafting above it. I had faced my fear of bulk food shopping and defeated it.

An older gentleman checked my receipt three feet from the point of sale and allowed me to exit. I was $100 poorer but psychologically healthier.

Shopping therapy. I hoped I was cured. I didn’t want to come back

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