On Saturday mornings, Dad drove us to the farmer’s market. We bought the same things every week – big red tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and a dozen eggs. Sometimes Dad bought us a fresh head of butter lettuce – perfect for the BLTs and hamburgers we liked to make when we got home. And sometimes – in the summer – he ventured to a stand at the far end of the market to purchase himself a fried green tomato sandwich before we headed back to the car.
I looked forward to those Saturday mornings when we drove downtown. On the way, we’d stop at a small, family-owned bakery with the best cannolis and vanilla cupcakes with white buttercream frosting that you could find anywhere in town. Dad let me eat the cupcake for breakfast, but I couldn’t have it when Mother was around. She’d allow a cannoli, but cupcakes were on her list of forbidden foods for her family to enjoy.
As I licked the last smears of frosting from my fingers, we’d be pulling into the parking lot of the market. There would be the Mennonites, unloading their truck of sweet breads and corn. There would be the regulars with their wicker baskets, strolling from stand to stand, chatting with the vendors, and admiring their spread of fruit. My sister, more bold than me from an early age, would hand-select items for Dad to buy. I would gaze at the juicy nectarines and polished green apples and wonder how to possibly choose. What if the one I picked had a warm or didn’t taste as sweet as the rest? Too many factors went into picking the best fruit and I simply didn’t have the confidence to try.
When we ambled between the aisles, stopping to smell the bread or admire an elderly grandma’s prized pecan pie, I longed for those minutes to last hours. We lost my dad to golf in the afternoons, and these were my precious moments with him on the weekends. He couldn’t take us on bike rides or on steep hikes, like other dads. He had no interest in art or catching a matinee. The market was our special time, and of all the potential memories we could have had partaking in anything else, I wouldn’t trade those Saturday mornings for a single one of them.