My mother has a thing for open-air markets. When I was a tiny child and could still fit easily into our family’s RadioFlyer wagon, she would haul my brother and I to the Farmer’s Market down the street on sunny Saturday mornings.
When we lived in Mexico last year, she discovered a fruit market up the street from our house and every Friday she would pick me up from the Christian school and drive up the hill to the market. My sisters would wait in the shade and eat the fresh fruit the Market People offered us while I helped my mother pickout pineapples, oranges, mangoes, squash, cauliflower, and whatever other produce she needed.
While we were in Paris in the fall of 2000, my mother developed a rather strong friendship with a certain set of Market People. I suppose it all started because their produce was better, and then the friendship grew as she carted me and Stevy, then 5 and 8, to the market various times throughout the week to buy fresh produce and cultivate friendships. Towards the end of our 2000 trip, she took a picture of Stevy and I with the Market People; the two of us had climbed under the metal frame of their stand, and were standing on upside-down crates, surrounded by the four or five men and women who worked the stand. We are all grinning, and if I remember correctly, Stevy and I are holding up bunches of carrots.
As she normally does on Wednesday and Friday mornings, Mom went to the market this morning. I accompanied her and we set off down Rue Mouffetard, pulling our little cart behind us. I had the all-important List in my pocket, and we wandered up and down the market aisles, picking up some cashews here, a couple parsnips there.
We passed one produce stand and continued around the corner, but something about the men at the first stand seemed vaguely familiar. As we stood in line to buy carrots and lettuce at the second stand, one of the men poked his head around the corner, glancing quizzically at Mom and I. But they can’t be our Market People, can they?
“They might actually be our Market People,” I conceded as Mom paid for the lettuce at the second stand. Still lacking some fruit, we rounded the corner once again and stopped in front of the first stand, me becoming more convinved every minute that these two men were some of our original Market People.
We bought some strawberries, a couple oranges, sampled a couple tomatoes, then Mom spoke up; “How long have you been here?” She asked. They didn’t quite understand the question. “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Mom assured them, shrugging off the language barrier and turning to inspect the red potatoes. I stood by, list in one hand, cart in other.
A middle-aged woman approached the stand and the Market Men wasted no time in asked her if she spoke English. “Non…” Minutes passed and Mom continued to shop and chat, both of us accepting the free samples we were offered. Then an elderly man approached the stand, grey beret on his head and spectacles balanced on his nose.
“Do you speak English?” the Market Men asked him eagerly, still dedicated to finding a translator. The man nodded emphatically and turned to Mom. After a moment or two of explanation and misunderstanding, the man turned to the Market Men and explained to them that we live in Chicago, but have visited Paris before, and were they by any chance here eleven years ago?
“We have been here 20 years!” The older Market Man exclaimed, before thanking the man heartily for his assistance. Then he turned back to Mom and I, “I recognize you from last time!” he grinned, before handing us some grapes to sample.
So we found our Market People.