In his short story, "A & P," John Updike takes readers back to a time in the not so distant past in which people were expected to act with integrity and decency in everything they did. An event as simple as going to the grocery store to pick up an item or two required people to present themselves in a way that was considered decent and proper. For me, however, what really drew me into the story was the setting of the A & P grocery store. While anyone under the age of 30 may not recall this chain of grocery stores, as an adult over the age of 40, it remains an active part of my childhood memories. In reading this story, I was reminded of many wonderful memories of people from a time and a place, which I happily mentally revisited and of which I am now glad to share some of my memories.
The location of the store in Updike's story is described as being in the middle of a town about five miles from the beach. The A & P store in my recollections ...view middle of the document...
In order to get to my uncle and aunt's house, we had to make a right hand turn at the A & P store and within a couple of minutes we would be there. Their house was not a fun place for a child to visit and it would seem like forever until we were finally in our car again, passing the A & P store in the opposite direction and heading for home. The
store served as a type of marker in mind. Once we were past it, I felt all was right with the world again.
After moving to Gastonia permanently, my grandparents and I would live right around the corner from the A & P store that I had used as a road marker for so long. Although my grandmother did our weekly shopping at the Winn-Dixie, I would often be dispatched to the A & P on errands to pick up something that we had forgotten or had run out of. I remember going into the store and feeling very grown up to be shopping on my own. Just as the girls were on an errand for one of their mothers, I could often be seen wandering the aisles to pick up whatever my grandmother needed. I can remember the look of the store, very much as described in the short story, with its checkerboard rubber tile floor and fluorescent lighting. Other things about this store that stick out in my mind include the old mechanical cash registers right at the front doors and the ever present scent of freshly ground coffee. It was a special time in my childhood and in many ways this store was a very special place.
Over the 20 years that we would live around the corner from the A & P, it would be a part of more memories than I could possibly cover in this paper. It would be the place that my sister got her first job, the place that I won a prize of $100 in the weekly bingo game, and the one of many places that have vanished from existence but remain on in my memories. These memories are precious to me and by reading Updike's story I was able to recall many very pleasant experiences from my past. Through his fictional characters in a real setting, Updike allowed me to revisit some real characters and real events that will forever live on in my heart and in my mind.