I hate going to the grocery store. Especially now that our old HEB closed and a new HEB Superstore opened just down the road from it. I don’t know where anything is and have to push a huge cart across acres of lineolum to find stuff. I wasn't that fond of the old HEB, either. It was cramped and dingy, and often I couldn’t find stuff there either, but for a different reason: they either didn’t carry it or were out. For example, you could find entire shelves of Ranch dressing, in every flavor combination imaginable, but there was only one brand of blue cheese dressing.
Inside the old HEB, you saw a cross-section of the people who live in this area. There were the old ranchers and local families who have been here for generations--unpretentious, tidy folk, many of them from old German stock. Then there were what some people unkindly referred to as “lake trash.” These are people who live up the highway on Canyon Lake, not to be confused with the well-to-do Canyon Lake residents who keep summer homes at the lake and belong to the “yacht club.” The lake people at our HEB looked like they just stepped off the set of The Grapes of Wrath, with their straggly hair, missing teeth, and grubby kids. Then there's the newest demographic, the city folk who moved out to the country. They commute to the city to work and come home to pretend to be country squires. I suppose we fall into that category.
There’s a phenomenon happening all over Texas--all over the country--that isn’t mentioned much in the media but is a regular topic of conversation around here. It’s the fact that the old cattle ranches are dying out. I know this has been going on for decades, but now that we live out here, I see it first hand. The old cattle ranchers die off, and their children, who have no desire to carry on the family ranch, working from dawn until after dark, sell the land to developers at exorbitant prices. Then the city people (like us) move in. It’s really kind of sad.
Our subdivision opens onto a narrow road that winds through the countryside for several miles, with ranches on both sides. One ranch in particular I used to enjoy driving past. I would slow down and gaze at the interesting array of beasts in the pasture. There were llamas, Longhorns, horses grazing alongside buffalo, and even a couple of zebras. In the spring they had babies, so there were little longhorns, buffalo, and llamas standing wobbly beside their mothers. They all coexisted peacefully. Then the land was sold and bulldozed, and now a huge church sits where the pasture was.
Now that we have moved here, we are in the contradictory position of not wanting anyone else to do the same. I hate to see any sign of encroaching civilization. The city keeps metastasizing north and with it come fast food joints and chain stores. It was almost too much when I saw a dollar store open up around the corner. Yes, it is a “Quality Dollar Store,” but, still. If the day comes when they start building a WalMart, I swear I will lie down in front of the bulldozers.
We already have a Home Depot. The Home Depot execs bribed the town by building a new library. The old library was a crowded storefront in the same shopping center as the old HEB. The new library is nice, I have to admit. It sits on a hill overlooking, well, the Home Depot. But in the spring the hill is covered with wildflowers, and it’s quite lovely. Still, it was a bribe, and the Home Depot got what it wanted.
And now, we have the HEB Superstore. On opening day, people came from all around to see it. The new superstore borrowed employees from the city HEBs for the occasion. Armies of teenagers roamed the check out stands, waiting to grab your bags. I usually carry my own, but the young man begged, “Please, ma’am, I don’t have anything better to do.” How could I say no? He and I wandered all over the parking lot looking for my vehicle, because I hadn’t thought to notice the letter on the nearest light pole. This wasn’t necessary at the old HEB – you could see your car from the front door.
All the talk for days was, “Have you been to the new HEB?” The huge parking lot, the spacious aisles. The fancy deli food, the electronics department. The fact that it has more wine in bottles than in boxes. Blah, blah. I was resentful at first.
But now I have adapted to the new HEB. It’s clean, efficient, and it offers several varieties of blue cheese dressing. And the employees are as friendly as they were in the old store. The other day I was sampling spaghetti sauce at one of those food tasting stands. I noticed that the sample lady was wearing a name tag bearing my name and commented on it. It’s pretty rare to meet somebody else named Cassie, at least in my generation. (Nowadays it’s popular to give your kids unusual names, so it's not so uncommon.) Then—and this was the interesting part—she explained that her real name is actually Kathleen, and she goes by “Cassie” only because her brother could not pronounce Kathy when she was born. Wow. I told her my story is exactly the same, except that my real name is Catherine. My big brother, who was two years old at the time I was born, couldn’t say “Cathy” either, and that's how I became “Cassie.” We bonded right there in the grocery aisle. And that feeling overflowed onto the store.
So I have come to accept the shiny new HEB. Especially now that they—finally—got sponge replacements for dishwashing wands. I’ve been waiting for those to arrive for weeks. And today I squeaked with joy as I snatched up an extra-wide dustpan. It will be a great help when I'm sweeping those leaves off the patio.
It’s the little things.