I first met my co-op valentine about 13 years ago. I still remember the first words he said to me: “Hey, do you want some free carob rice milk?” I won’t say it was love at first sight, but I think we both knew that not everyone would be as excited about carob milk as we were.
We worked the closing shift at the store on Randolph and Fairview (may it rest in peace) each Saturday and Sunday night, me with newly formed dreadlocks and him in overalls and straightedge shirts. He stocked groceries and I cashiered, but we would both meet up in the aisles to face the shelves together near the end of the night. It was among the Puffins and the rice noodles and the tamari that we got to know each other.
After a year of stocking shelves and facing products side by side, he started walking me home each night after work. I found myself looking forward to each shift, just so I could see him again.
It was at the co-op that I first met my future stepsons, too. They were just toddlers then, with squeaky voices and weird twin-speak that I couldn’t even understand. Now they’re teenagers with feet bigger than mine and hip new slang I can barely understand. But it still brightens my heart like nothing else when they come to the co-op to see me and grab an amazake or a smoothie.
I don’t give the co-op all the credit for making my little family what it is today, but I know for certain we never would have found each other or been as well-fed without Mississippi Market and for that, I’ll always be grateful.