Editor’s Note: Listen to the audio version of this column.
“Don’t go lollygagging and keep me waiting all day, dear,” Grandma would say, promenading her Olds Cutlass to the front door of the grocery store as if she was driving a Rolls Royce and owned the store.
She could have laid claim to owning it if ownership was determined by the number of items checked through her lane and the smiles she’d flashed to customers over her 32 years as a clerk. Oh, she wasn’t just a clerk. She was head cashier and her finger-tips, cracked and dried from counting change, were proof.
I’d scurry through the aisles until I found the cans of creamed peas or Jiffy pie crust mix, which didn’t take long. I had the store memorized like the location of each alley in town like all good spies do. For when grandma thought I was lollygagging, I was really Nancy Drew — my bike gear, radio communication — the bolt holding my handlebars on, the magic button I’d push to hear my secret assignment.
That particular day, my mission was to secure a jar of maraschino cherries. The cherries, I pretend, must be fed to blackbirds within the hour or humanity will cease to exist. The spy game is fun. It gives me a reason to hurry — to not lollygag. I skim the shelves of canned fruit and pickled beets until I find the cherries. Flip-flops slapping the floor, I jog to the register, hoping I’m not too late to save the world from the latest threat to freedom.
Reaching the car, I see Grandma’s shoulders relaxed against her seat and know I made good time. If not, she’d be all crinkled up and stiff like a burnt french fry. All good spies notice these things. I sling open the car door and declare, “Got it!”
“Quick as a whistle, girlie!” Grandma says, punching the gas pedal once for good measure before turning the key in the ignition.
I’m still playing spy games. I tell myself that I have a mission on this planet — that if I can write about the past from a unique perspective, I can create my future and inspire others to create theirs. If people are more content with their lives, I figure the world will be happier in general.
I enjoy being a spy with a mission, but sometimes, I just want to lollygag. I stroll to the back deck of my house, cradling my coffee mug and lean against the rail to watch the honking geese fly over the pond. They land and peck, seeming content to dawdle, and I wonder if I fed them cherries if I could save the world.