Heidi’s Annual Grocery Store Panic

 The Iowa grocery store chain known as Hy-Vee never closes. It is open at Easter, open on New Year’s Day, open even on Thanksgiving. In the middle of your turkey dinner and realize you forgot the cranberries? Send someone out to Hy-Vee. Middle of the night and you need cough syrup? Hy-Vee. They are open all the time, a constant security blanket of Stuff, some you need and some it’s just nice to know is there.

Except for today, and tomorrow.

Hy-Vee will close today sometime in the afternoon or evening. It will stay closed until Saturday morning. This is Christmas Eve, and tomorrow is Christmas Day, and employees want (and deserve!) to be with their families. I’m not against this at all, and in fact, I’m all for it. It’s good, really.


And so begins my annual freakout about food, groceries, and other sundry stuff. It does not help that this year all is chaos, and I am not organized, and there may or may not be a snowstorm, and my sister may or may not make it up here today, and people may or may not make it up here tomorrow night. I need my security blanket of the grocery store that is always willing to trade money for stuff now more than ever, and I’m not going to have it.


Add to this that Dan just gave me the checkbook total, and buying milk would be tough. Apparently we bought gas and went to the chiropractor and bought groceries once or twice or three times already. Huh. So maybe it’s good the stores are closed.

I think—no, I know—that this is actually not about food or Hy-Vee, and it isn’t any year. It’s about my need to try and prepare for every and any eventuality, to be able to face the onslaught of life with the calm serenity that comes from being prepared. I am always the one on every trip who will have packed every medicine you might need, the one who thought to bring the article of clothing nobody else considered, the one who always, in short, has everything. No surprises, no gotchas.

This year I am a particular fail on many fronts of preparedness, and this year I really do need to double check and make sure I don’t need anything at the store, because I could easily have overlooked something vital. Like cat food. We have enough until Saturday if they skimp. I’m not sure about milk. Dan wanted some soda… Yeah.

My grocery store panic always comes out of my unwillingness to accept the loss of a support system in my scheme to maintain control. This year it’s more like the temporary closure of an artery. It’s in these closures, these changes where the magic happens, where the creativity thrives. I know this. I just don’t like it. And really, I approach this the same way when I write. Yes, the good stuff comes out when the story throws a curveball at me, when my nice and tidy plans get chucked out the window and I have to invent on the spot. Yes, that’s true. It’s just also true that I’m going to whine.

Merry Christmas Eve. May your grocery stores be open, and failing that, may your cupboards and refrigerators be full, and may all your surprises be good ones.

9 Comments on “Heidi’s Annual Grocery Store Panic

  1. I feel this sort of panic when I visit my family and have no internet access the entire time– No Facebook! No email! No blogs to read or update! No celebrity gossip via MSN!

  2. LOL Merry Christmas, Heidi! Your post made me smile. For once, I’m on top of the chaos (cept that I probably just jinxed myself for saying that), but most years are full of last minute panicking, so I commiserate.
    No worries. The bottom line is… none of this will matter on Saturday. ;-p And I’m sure everything will be perfect, if not according to plan.

    Hope Santa is good to you.

  3. HyVee *is* entirely too accessible, isn’t it? I was glad to see they were actually closing some for the holiday; as someone who used to work PT in a grocery store, it absolutely s*cked being the only one who couldn’t make it to a family holiday gathering!!!
    (And I refuse to go to Wally World, i.e. Walmart. Target, all the way!)
    Just read “Hero” and enjoyed it immensely. As an Iowan who lives in the Des Moines/Ames area and who *used* to live in Emporia, KS, I am curious as to how you chose Emporia?!! Just too, too funny. Ah, the smells of the meat packing plant, the train whistles, and the group weddings at the College of the Way (if I remember correctly what it was/is called).
    Happy Holidays!
    Sherry F (from the Midwest)

    • Hi, Sherry. 🙂
      Do you know, I have to confess I just opened the map of Kansas and picked a town that looked like it wasn’t huge but wasn’t microscopic, either. I’m still not sure why Kansas, exactly, but it felt right. As for the grocery store: Hy-Vee had the day off, but I did end up at Walgreen’s to buy sweetened condensed milk.
      I’m glad you enjoyed Hero, and thanks for letting me know. Best wishes and hope to hear from you again in the future.

      • Gotta say, that cracks me up even more. Emporia definitely was the type of place where Hal would’ve had his ass kicked if he’d come out while living there. It’s a college town with a few factories, e.g. a meat-packing plant that reeks and scents the whole town if the wind is right (wrong?),and a Dollie Madison factory that smells so-so. And numerous surprise visits from Immigration at all of them. I was totally digging why he left…..!!! 🙂
        Ah, Walgreens…. I don’t know if the one in my ‘hood was open. I love their “As seen on TV” section!
        Looking forward to reading your future stories!
        Sherry F (from the Midwest)

        • This is very helpful to hear. The characters always seem to know what they’re doing, but it’s hard to swallow sometimes the idea that a guy from your head really does know about Emporia, Kansas, than you do. I will use this to try and have faith sooner in the future. Thank you.
          Of course you say Dolly Madison and I’m simultaneously revisiting Peanuts specials from the 70s and wanting a zinger.

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