Wal-Mart, America, and Life in Transition

It’s the eve of our travel to Morocco and we have sorely neglected to reflect on our time in the US. So how did we adjust to life the United States? Not too bad actually. Perhaps it was because we knew it was temporary that we didn’t balk at the massive amounts of merchandise that was constantly dangled in front of us. And the food. Food was everywhere. Food was plentiful. No matter what item was on our shopping list, there were always 10 different options to pick from. The sheer number of choices was exhausting.

I just admit however, it didn’t take me long to start coveting that chrome hand blender (attachments included) that almost jumped into my shopping cart the other day. An advertiser somewhere is smirking over the countless tubs of Edy’s Reese’s Ice Cream that have been consumed in the last few weeks. And in my mind, I have already furnished the 4-bed, 3.5 bath house we don’t (and probably won’t ever) own in Northern Virginia (…unless we win the lottery).

But never more quickly did the lessons of the last two years fly away as when I walked into the Waynesville Wal-Mart. Forget about the fact that in my attempt to reach Wal-Mart, I got in the car, bucked my seat belt, and then realized there was no steering wheel on the right side. Minor setback, really. And forget about your own local Wal-Mart. The Waynesville Wal-Mart is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It is rural America at its finest. There is seemingly no end to the aisles in this store. You could roam blissfully for hours, lose track of time and emerge at the Subway just as the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies are coming out of the oven. Grab a sweet tea and head back into the fray.

Now, I haven’t always been a fan of Wal-Mart. In fact, I’ve always hated Wal-Mart.  But leave the US for a few years and all of the sudden, Wal-Marts, especially the new ones with the really wide aisles, are paradise. You know that movie where a pregnant Natalie Portman is rendered homeless by her boyfriend, so she lives at the Wal-Mart? (Or was it K-Mart? Or some other -Mart?). The Waynesville Wal-Mart completely glamorizes that lifestyle. I feel certain that I could do it for a month or more without getting cabin fever.  [Note:  These sentiments do not reflect my feelings of the Gastonia Franklin Square Wal-Mart.  It is, and probably always will be a wretched place].

I’m uncomfortable revealing exactly how many times we visited the Waynesville Wal-Mart, but let’s just say it was our go-to spot when we needed to get out of the house. Think of it as a public park. Without the grass, trees, and playground.  And for real, I thought I was in a park when I passed a young woman wearing a string bikini on the cheese aisle and an old man chewing on a cigar in the electronics department.

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Proof that I could, in fact, live in Wal-Mart a la “Where the Heart Is.” These “giant roasters” are the size of 4 jumbo marshmallows put together.

All joking aside, life in the US has been a little strange for us. We adjusted pretty quickly back to our old ways, employing habits we equally celebrate and lament. And although the US is our “home,” there is a sense that we don’t quite fit in here…at least not yet. We’ve decided that’s ok. The adventures and lessons ahead in Morocco are a good trade off for the loss of our old selves. We’ll have many stateside years ahead to feel fully American again.  And as much as I love the USA and its Wal-Marts, I wouldn’t mind if we lost part of our old selves forever.

America, we love you.  See you soon!

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