Shopping for food with my Grandmother was a delight for this young boy.  Whenever we went shopping our first stop was the meat market on Fourth Street. The butcher inside the shop would always greet “Gelsomina” by her Italian name and she would respond to him. After exchanging salutations she would start to view the cuts of meat the butcher had on display.  She would start at one end of the counter and finish viewing at the other end of the counter.  The butcher would wait patiently until she looked up and speaking in Italian would ask to see a particular cut of meat.  He also spoke Italian so he understood Grandma’s request and he would show her that slice of beef.  Grandma Jessie would than tell him how fatty the beef was and that she wanted beef not fat.  He would look at the slice of beef and explain that beef needs fat for flavor and this was an excellent slice of beef. Sometimes if my Grandmother shook her head and waved her hands if she preformed this ritual the butcher knew to place the slice of meat back in the counter other times she might give it another look then nod approval and the butcher would know to wrap it up for Grandma Jessie. I found this exchange fascinating. With all of the yelling and hand gestures I was sure they did not like each other but that was not the case.

On one visit I was surprised that the butcher had some rabbit on display. I was very fascinated by these little bodies without heads or tails but with four legs.  At first I did not know just what they were and so I asked my Grandma Jessie.  She looked at the tray of rabbits and trying to think of the English word for rabbit gave up and just told me the Italian name for rabbit. I did not understand the Italian word and looked very confused. The butcher leaned over the counter and told me that they were rabbits.  He then asked my Grandma if she was interested in a rabbit.  She moved back to the section of the counter with the rabbit bodies and took a closer look. She then shook her head no and said the rabbits were too skinny.  The butcher picked up one of the rabbits and showed it more closely to my Grandmother. They talked and talked and I did not understand what was being said but we ended up having rabbit for dinner.

Even though Grandma had fruit trees and wonderful gardens in her yard we would sometimes need to stop at the produce market for something special.  A cantaloupe, watermelon, or maybe some other fruit that was not available from her garden might be on her list.  She would look, feel, hold and inspect the item and if it met her level of approval it would be purchased.  If not it was returned to its place on the rack. Grandma would complain to the produce man if the fruit was no good and ask when the good stuff would arrive. He of course would tell her that she was viewing the best produce anywhere in San Jose. Yes they were friends also but it sure was fun to see them argue about his products.

I am so old that these were the days when milk was still delivered to your door so the purchase of milk was not necessary. With our meat and produce we would then head into the grocery store.  Mayo Market (my Godmother’s store) was the place my “Dolly” would purchase items like coffee, pasta, can goods, and other household items.  Shopping was fun with Grandma Jessie.  Whenever we went to the Mayo Market I would visit my Grandma Mayo and my Godmother.  I would head into the house for cookies and milk and lots of hugs and kisses.  Any kind of shopping with my Grandma was a great adventure with every day different and always something needing to be done. I never had as much fun as the time I spent with my Grandmother Jessie, my “Dolly”

Darn, before I knew it my family returned from their vacation in Des Moines Iowa and they took me away from my grandma’s house.  Back to the home of my childhood, back to my brother and sisters, back to mom and dad, back to my room, and of course back to my chores. My princely days were over and I was swallowed up into my family. They all talked about the wonderful time they had and all the relatives they met. They talked about my Grandma Mary and my namesake Grandpa John. They just talked and talked but deep down I knew that the time I spent with my Grandma Jessie was the best thing for me. If only I could do it now for just one more time.

Just a small note:  The real reason I was left behind was that this is a short time after the death of my Uncle Sam and My Grandfather Sam.  Grandpa Sam was Grandma Jessie’s husband and I was there to help my little “Dolly”.

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