Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Corner Store Kids

Raising kids in the city is so far from what I'd envision parenting to be like. A highlight of the day for my kids is to go to the corner store. I guess if we are trying to find the suburban analogy to the corner store, i would compare the corner store to the Eckerd's Drugstore. I grew up walking to the Eckerd to buy candy with other kids from my neighborhood. If I was totally honest, I would have to reveal that I was actually the only one who didn't use my allowance on candy, but on a large bag of Doritos.  

But, the corner store is really incomparable to the suburban drug store. Actually, the term drug store may actually be more suitable for our corner store. Mrs. Young, the proprietor of said store, is an old crotchety asian woman who seems to have been hardened by life in the neighborhood. The same clientele come in and out, shouting profane greetings at her, trying to get a rise. Most of the time she doesn't take the bait. She remains stoic and tells them how much they owe her. 

Does she keep IOU's or a running tab on each costumer? It would seem so. She seems to know just how many cigarettes she has sold to each person. Here, in Philly, you buy single cigarettes, since you can rarely afford the entire pack at once. I think the going rate is .25 cents per stick. Blunts might be more. (Philly blunts, the kind with the wacky tabacky, aren't for sale at the corner stores...at least, as far as I know.) 

I tried to take a picture of Mrs. Young, but she wouldn't let me. When I asked her if I could, she turned her back to me even though I did not even have the camera out. She refused to turn around until I left the store. I see Mrs. Young several times a week, but she has yet to smile at me. No one on our block smiles at each other. It's a subtle nod and perhaps a quick "How ya doing?", but that's the extent. It seems like smiling is a level of intimacy that isn't risked very often around here. 

Going to Mrs. Young's is a treat for Ellie and Atticus. They can actually buy something they want for a quarter, which is nice and kind of reminds me of Andy Griffith days. Minus the sweetness. Its either ice cream (the cones dipped in chocolate rolled in peanuts kind) or Cheetohs (Atticus' poison of choice). 
I don't think that having my kids go to the corner store is a negative thing, it's just really something that I haven't gotten used to yet, even after 5 years in the city.

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