We began going to the Farmers’ Market as a way to preserve the parenting energy my husband and I needed. He and I made a pact after our second child was born: each of us would ensure the other got to sleep “late” (read: 8 am) one day a week. He slept “late” on Saturdays and I claimed Sundays. On Sunday mornings, he packed our squealing, chattering daughters quickly into the car — sometimes in their pajamas — to go to Home Depot, which was sometimes the only place open on Sundays. There, he handed them paint sample cards to carry and let them touch all the doorknobs while he mused over the varying bolts and power tools that just might be required for his next renovation project in our old townhouse.
On Saturdays, I took the girls to the Farmers’ Market. It opened at 7:30 am, and some Sundays, we parked our car in the tall parking garage overlooking the Market and watched as the farmers set up their stands. Had we stayed home, I would have been aggressively shushing them, desperately trying to give their father the sleep he’d earned yesterday in the dawn at Home Depot. Out of the house, I somehow discovered the reserves to be patient.
“Look,” I’d say. “Look at all the flowers in that truck!”
Walking through the market in those early years was a logistical challenge. The baby would be in a sling on my hip and the preschooler in the stroller; or the baby would go in the stroller and the preschooler would hold her hand and walk; or both of them would take turns shifting from stroller to sling to walking and back again, satisfied with their position only for a few minutes at a time. Still, I remember those mornings as a respite from my frustration with the rest of our lives: a sick baby who never slept, constant worry, my own insomnia. At the Market, I convinced my older daughter to find a rainbow — one fruit or vegetable for every color. I handed my baby chunks of juicy peaches to suck and, when she was in the sling nearly asleep against my chest and her sister was happily eating raspberries in the stroller, I could breathe for a minute, notice the sun above me, and consider — even briefly — whether there was anything here that I might like to cook later that day, after their father woke up.
As they got older, we kept coming. When my little daughter was forced to follow a maddening elimination diet, the Farmers’ Market was one of the only places where she could eat nearly everything on offer. She was almost five by then, and I could hand her some money and send her to our favorite fruit vendor. She’d point to blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and what that farmer called “multicultural tomatoes,” a mix of grape tomatoes in half a dozen colors. At some point most weeks, she’d also convince me to buy a bag of earthy “baby bella” mushrooms from the mushroom farmer, and she’d happily brush the dirt off of them before eating them raw as we walked.
My older daughter had begun to pay attention to the vegetables we received in a box each week from a local farm through a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program and to identify her favorites. If they were not in our box, she would suggest we buy some, reminding me: “Momma, we need arugula and garlic. Momma, did we get potatoes?”
After the worst of the elimination diet was done, we began to seek out fresh eggs at the Market. I’d been complacently buying eggs at the grocery store like everyone else I knew until a friend shared some truly farm-fresh eggs with me. The difference is remarkable and so, after that, we had “egg guys” at the Market, for chicken eggs and, as the years passed, duck eggs that made every baked good we cooked extra rich and delicious. The egg guys also sell the most delicious plums we’ve ever had, several of which never make it home from the Market if my older daughter is with me.
The Farmers’ Market is a great equalizer in many ways. When my children don’t come with me — more and more common each year — I can look around and see the range of humanity present at all the stages in which I’ve found myself there. There are mothers and babies; whole families with sticky, peach-covered toddlers; single men and women moving with purpose toward their favorite stalls; older couples; and parents of all ages pushing children of all ages in wheelchairs ranging from simple to complex. On the most perfect sunny days at the Farmers’ Market, I can see the gratitude wafting off of all of us. The fruit is sweet, the vegetables and jams and salsas presented with such possibility and potential, and, for we city dwellers, the smell of the earth closer than it is any other time of the week. This place is, without a doubt, my favorite part of summer.
I’ve found peace at the Farmers’ Market for a decade now and, looking around, I have no doubt that it will wait for me there for years to come.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of FindingNinee.com. This week’s sentence is “The things I love and hate about summer…”