Weeks before we left the States I went to Sam's Club with my mom. She got one of those big shopping carts and went up and down the aisles pulling things off the shelves: giant bags of flour and sugar and nuts; cans of tomatoes; jars of olives. Frozen food got ignored, but everything else was fair game.

"Why are you getting so much stuff?" I asked. 

"I don't know what we'll be able to get regularly," she said. "And if you want to eat your regular food we're going to need these."

It was like we were preparing for the end of the world or something. I watched the cart fill up and wondered where it was all going to go.

"Your aunt's basement," said my mom. 

I didn't really think my aunt and uncle were going to like that very much. After all, they had to live in the house.

"It's only for a little while," said my mom, "Just until the truck comes to take it away."

We checked out and loaded the trunk. It got to the point where my mom could barely see out the rear window.

"Can you make sure there's nothing behind us sweetie."

"Sure Mom."

We dropped the groceries off at the house and were off again. This time to the Indian store. The only one in town. That wasn't really in town because we drove thirty minutes in the opposite direction. 

"Won't there be Indian food in Lagos?" I asked.

"Probably, but just to be safe," my mom replied.

Two hours later, loaded down with bags of dhal, jars of pickle, and a myriad of spices, we returned to the house.  The food all went down to the basement and was sorted by type. My mom sat on the floor with a sharpie in hand. Methodically she labeled each can and jar with the month and year. 


"So I know which ones to use first."

"Is it all going to fit?"

"I hope so."

When the shipment finally arrived in a large crate in our driveway many months later, it did all fit. The cans and jars and lentils went in the pantry. The flour and sugar and nuts went in the second freezer that lived in the laundry room.

"Why the freezer?"

"So it doesn't get bugs or go rancid."

"Unless the power goes off and it defrosts."

"Well cross your fingers that our generators hold and that doesn't happen."


Asha SundararamanComment