Mom must have been weighing her options. Patty had stayed home from kindergarten because of tonsillitis. Again. Kim was only one. I was three-and-a-half and coloring in the living room so my sisters could sleep in the bedroom the three of us shared. It was almost lunchtime.

We were out of bread.

Apparently, there could be no lunch without bread, because Mom decided to put a quarter, a nickel, and two pennies in my three-and-a-half year old fist, and send me to The  Corner Store to buy a loaf of bread.

“Remember, it’s the one with the red, yellow, and blue balloons.” Mom the Savvy Shopper

I would have to cross two streets. Alone.

Of course Mom warned me:

“Look both ways before you cross the street, and Watch. Out. For. Cars.” Mom the Wise

This is where I started.

06-13-07, Racine 01
3605 Kinzie Avenue. My house.

Now turn left, and stand in front of the house next door. It’s on the corner. This is where I was going.

06-13-07, Racine 03
See that pale grayish-greenish building straight ahead beyond the trees? That’s The Corner Store. My destination.

I stood on our corner for a couple minutes, waiting for a car to come so I could show Mom that I knew how to wait for it to go by before I crossed. No car came, but I waited until Mom yelled:

“Go ahead! Cross the street!” Mom the Impatient
06-13-07, Racine 02
Fratt Elementary on Cleveland Avenue, bordered on the left by Kinzie Avenue — the school Patty stayed home from.

I walked past the Kinzie Avenue end of Fratt Elementary School, to Arthur Avenue, the second street I had to cross to get to The Corner Store.

06-13-07, Racine 04
When I was 3-1/2, this was The Corner Store. In 2007, it was a party favor store. Now it’s Rich’s Sport Card Store. Sigh. Time changes everything.

I stood on the corner of Kinzie and Arthur, determined to wait for a car. If Mom was yelling, I couldn’t hear her.

After a few minutes, a trash truck came toward me on Kinzie and turned onto Arthur, right in front of me! I waved and the guy in the passenger seat waved back. I’ve loved trash trucks ever since.

Inside The Corner Store, the bread with the red, yellow, and blue balloons sat on a shelf just inside the door. Higher than I could reach.

Wonder bread 2
Had I come all this way to fail because I was too short?

Tilting my head back so I could see the bread with the red, yellow, and blue balloons, my sweaty fist clutched the coins, and tears welled. Lower lip quivering, I needed help. I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but people who worked at the store would be okay, right?

I ran to the butcher counter at the back of the store. It looked a lot like this one:

Butcher 2
…but minus the high prices and the cell phone warning.

It took a while to get the butcher’s attention. He must have been a bachelor butcher; I’m pretty sure a dad would have cared about the little kid crying in front of the cold cuts. When he finally asked what I needed, his advice was to ask somebody at the front of the store.

I believed was he was trapped back there or he would have come with me and helped me.

I cried all the way back to the bread. There were a few people around, but nobody I knew who worked there, and I still wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers no matter what the butcher told me to do.

I stood there crying at the bread with the red, yellow, and blue balloons.

That’s when a lady in a flowery dress stopped to get her own bread. She didn’t have any kids with her, but I knew she was somebody’s mom because she looked right at me and said:

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” A Mom to the Rescue

As I recall, she even smiled when she handed me the bread.

I paid at the cash register counter, just like I’d watched Mom do, and I hurried home. No more waiting for another car to prove I could do the right thing. No more tears. No plans to go to any store alone again until I was at least five feet tall. I was just going home. To have lunch.

Mom used the same peanut butter and jelly she always used to make my sandwich with white bread from the bag with the red, yellow, and blue balloons, but this time, it tasted like triumph.

What challenges do you remember from your short days?

Author: Sue Ranscht

I am a writer. Let me tell you a story...

17 thoughts on “Quandary”

  1. Wow how times have changed! Most kids that age now aren’t trusted to play outside their own homes let alone crossing streets and buying bread! Loved reading your story and seeing the pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Curtis. I took those in 2007, the last time I visited my hometown of Racine, Wisconsin, about 60 miles north of Chicago at the southern tip of Lake Michigan — part of America’s Heartland, the Great Midwest.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I suppose Paris, Texas is the best known, but some time before that, Alice in the Cities prefigures it. A road movie in black and white. In both he films a certain beautifully.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! You brought me back. Excellent Sue! Love the pictures! The feelings that well up, warm my heart. There is just something about Racine…

    Liked by 1 person

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