“I’m never taking you to the grocery store again!” These were words that I can remember hearing often in my growing up years; but, out of necessity, I still went with my mother and three siblings every week to buy the groceries our family needed.

The grocery store seemed better than a playground. There was so much to see and do. My brothers would hover over the orange display and try and figure out which one of the stacked fruit they could snatch from the lot that would cause the best chain-reaction of fruit rolling down and off the shelf. We would run to the pickle barrel and pretend we were watching miniature alligators floating in the brine. We were the mighty hunters, using the tongs to conquer the not so mighty, yet salty, beasts. There was also the soda aisle that had bottles and cans just begging to be picked up and shaken so that unsuspecting consumers would get a surprise when they opened them in their homes.

Looking back as an adult, it’s obvious why my mother looked so frazzled after our weekly shopping but there was one thing that she said she always enjoyed from this experience and that was passing out to each of us the Green Stamps our family earned for the week.

My siblings and I each had our own collection of books with our stamps licked and placed in the correct places on each page. We knew, by memory, how many books of stamps we needed to collect to purchase some trinket from the Green Stamp catalog.

I knew what I wanted to use my Green Stamps for; I had my eye on a ukulele, which came with its own carrying case. As I licked and applied my share of Green Stamps in my books each week, I dreamed of owning this ukulele and could almost hear the beautiful music I could make with it.

It seemed like I would never have enough stamps, but finally, the week came when I did, and my ukulele was shortly in my hands.

It was a beautiful instrument. The wood was smooth, and the neck of the instrument seemed to plead for my fingers to move over the strings that crossed it so it could produce its sound. The instruction book showed me how to tune the ukulele, using the keys of my mother’s piano and one by one, I worked through playing the different songs also included with the instructions.

I loved playing my ukulele, and my playing skills improved after many hours of strumming and fingering the notes. I always kept my instrument polished and clean, and when I was not using it, I kept it in its case.

Years have passed, and my ukulele has traveled with me whenever I’ve moved. I haven’t played it in years, but I will never get rid of it. From time to time, while in a grocery store, I hear the echo of my mother lamenting, “I’m never going to take you to the grocery store again.” and I am so glad she did. My Green Stamps bought far more than a small wooden ukulele; it also bought joy, wrapped in the sound produced by Green Stamps.

Susan Grant has taught middle school English for more than a decade, and writing is an important part of her professional and personal life. She is published in Longridge Review.