Groceries for Thought

Whole Foods.  It’s not just a place to spend $100 on $25 worth of food.

Like, look at the advertisement I found in the window here!


I think this means that I am supposed to buy a bacon cheese burger and feel good about it because no one else would be inclined to do it, except maybe for the thousands of other people viewing this advertisement.

Then again, in Whole Foods, a bacon cheese burger would be an “outside the box” selection.  All the joiners here go for the gluten and conflict-free quinoa salad, with a side of yoga mat.

As I contemplate this, I wonder, was there ever a path more frequently trod than the one I am on? Former laywer, current stay-at-home mother, who had just gone to Whole Foods to buy organic strawberries and a coffee?


In fact, I am pretty sure there are three of me sitting at an adjacent booth right now.

Not moved to buy a bacon cheeseburger, I do act on another impulse.  I pull out my iPhone (it has a pink cover like all the other moms in Whole Foods) and I google the “road less traveled” to find the Robert Frost poem from which, I assume, the ad had taken its reference.

I learn that the poem is called “The Road Not Taken” and I also realize that I had never read it (or maybe never understood it?) before.  There is a small chance that one of my high school English teachers will read this blog post so I will be moved to apologize here.  I will plead adolescence, because I don’t think my pre-college, pre-careeer, pre-marriage, pre-“ever having to make a real choice of any consequence” self could have appreciated this poem, which I, along with every other student must have read a dozen times in school.

I read it there in the Whole Foods, with my common coffee in hand, and I burst into tears.  Not just because, as I have established previously, I am mentally unbalanced.  And not because I am embarrassed to have made such common and “very well-traveled” choices.

But because it is a great and effective poem that perfectly captures the melancholy reality of what it means to have made a choice.  It doesen’t seem to have much to do with finding “the road less traveled” at all.  It says (to me anyway) that if we take one course, we necessarily cannot take another (whether or not either course was “well” or “less” traveled).  Moving forward,  getting older, requires us to acknowledge that we will never do many of the things we thought we might.  Looking back we’ll figure out a way to say we’ve made the “right” decision whether or not it was.

It really doesn’t have too much to do with a cheeseburger.

If it has been 20 years since you’ve read the Road Not Taken, maybe you’d like to read it again?  You’ll find it by clicking here.

On a subsequent read, you’ll see that this poem is an appropriate accompaniment for a stroll through Whole Foods after all.  Especially if you are over 40 and maybe thought that by now you would have done more than buy a coffee.  Then again.  That coffee.  It has made all the difference.

About MotherJam

Trying to be insightful. But mostly just avoiding housework and ignoring my children.
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7 Responses to Groceries for Thought

  1. Lately I’ve found Frost’s “Birches” even more poignant.

    • MotherJam says:

      Yes. I wasn’t the best climber (I was in fifth grade when I broke my arm as I was swinging from a jungle gym) but I would like to go back there for a little while. Thanks for the reference–as I get older I see that I have not read or thought much about anything.

  2. mimi says:

    I’m impressed with your analysis…my 8th grade students usually get this poem wrong. I’ll suggest they reread it in 30 years preferably in a whole foods.

  3. Heidi says:

    You’ve done it again! Lovely.

  4. David says:

    Except for the closing line, Frost’s poem almost seems lonely. There were no rules, no helpers, just him making a choice … exactly like real life.

    BTW, I refuse to call my decisions the right ones, since that somehow excuses all the crap dumped on me (most by me). Instead, I’ll spin it as: I did the best I could. But that’s just me.

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