Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Cheese Stands Alone

I inadvertently omitted one of Theo's vehement dislikes on that list I made the other day. I had forgotten about the great and terrible cheese.

I'm not sure why we were so delighted when Theo grew big enough to sit in the shopping cart seat. He looks so small and determined clutching its bars and staring around at every shopper, every pair of socks, every avocado that we pass during our weekly shopping excursions. He cranes his neck around so he can see where we're headed and examines the other people in the store solemnly. There's always so much going on around him that he's too distracted to fuss.

Our routine includes a stop at the fancy cheese counter. I usually make a detour into the yogurt aisle while Jeff wheels the cart up to where he makes his weekly request for what we've learned is the most exotic of delicacies - yellow Irish cheddar. The cheese ladies, who wear white paper hats and hairnets and crisp aprons, all know him and start to prepare our order as soon as they see Jeff coming.

The past few weeks, after Jeff parks the shopping cart, just as the cheese lady makes eye contact and starts to speak, Theo becomes as terrified as I've ever seen him. I can usually hear his shrieks as I reach for the yogurt, and by the time I get to the counter, Jeff has picked him up and the cheese lady is backing away slowly. There are tears, there is clutching, there was even, on one occasion, the apparent attempt to climb out of Jeff's arms and flee the scene on foot.

Our block of cheddar tossed across the counter and flung into the cart, we get past the meat counter and all the way to the cereal aisle before Theo has stopped crying. By the time we arrive at the pasta section, he is once again happily ensconced in the cart and smiling at the baby whose mother is shopping for egg noodles.

We have no idea what he fears, but it's happened every time we've visited the grocery story in the past few weeks. His freak-out is, as far as we can tell, usually precipitated by the attention of the cheese ladies. Our one and only theory is that he doesn't like their unusual costume, particularly the pointy hat.

We're pretty sure he is going to love his first encounter with Santa Claus.


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