Grocery Bags



Growing up in the 60’s, unable to interact with the people around me, I spent my time in books and magazines. Newsweek, Time, Mad, National Geographic. Absorbing trends, by 1966 I was sure humanity had an expiration date. So much so, at the age of 12, I decided not to have children, that they’d not have to suffer the end. I started recycling in 1966 anyway. Newspaper at first. Afternoons, I delivered 80 papers give or take on an established route. I convinced most my customers to leave their papers on the porch on Sunday. I’d wheel my wagon around. Come Monday, after my deliveries, I’d make two trips to the dump across the highway where I got paid to recycle.

Come the 80’s, I was happy to see curbside recycling come to New Jersey. I road my bicycle when reasonable. For the past 20+ years, I’ve pretty much been a bicycle commuter. For some 20 years, also, I’ve shopped with my own bags regardless the market, home center or art supply store.

The other day at the supermarket, packing my backpack from my canvas bags, a child watched me. Up to my shoulder, I made her 9, maybe 10. All arms, legs, draped in a blue and white baseball uniform, her milk chocolate hair in a high ponytail, a blue scrunchie matching her ankle socks.

I thought it odd her not wearing a ball cap. We looked from each other, me catching her staring, her catching me staring. Outside, unlocking my bike, I turned sharply, her three feet away, bright face up. “I wanted to thank you,” she said, her pale brown eyes penetrating me.

“For?” I asked.

“Your bags. Using your own bags. Doing what you can to save the planet.” She held on, almost mournful, watching.

Maybe I beamed, I wanted to be proud, likely not, the sense of a battle already lost. “You’re welcome.” I was going to give her history, maybe boast of my recycling when I was her age, chose not to. “I wish I could have done more.”

“Me, too,” she answered, an indictment of all who’ve come before her.

Fluidly, she turned from me, almost skipping, her ponytail a pendulum taking measure back to when I was a little older than her, when I realized the war was already lost.


October Ferguson





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