I went to Paul's Discount yesterday, and there were very few parking spots available. I found the items I needed, then just wandered the crowded aisles for a bit. Reminiscing.
I visited where I used to dream among the toys of what Christmas might bring. Where, with money from my ninth birthday, I bought a bait box to keep nightcrawlers. Where I carefully chose the right color and size of jigs and lures sure to land "the big one" on fishing trips to the dam. I studied the chart of recent catches by local fishermen. Remembered weighing in some of my own. Recalled the excitement on my son's face when he once won a prize for his catch.
I remembered how each spring, starting in my eighth year, I'd ride my bike out to look with great anticipation and "expert discernment" at the new baseball gloves. Trying them on, smelling each one, and deciding which would help "up my game." I remembered taking my son to buy his first glove, standing in line at the register and seeing him bury his 5-year-old face in the leather pocket, then looking up to exclaim "Dad, it smells so good."
I then thought of Dom McKinley, who's worked at the store for years and years. We played softball together many seasons as teammates and opponents. He twice got me MLB replica baseball hats at cost for the kids of Camanche Jr. Baseball when I coached the Little Leagues. Those kids wore them so proudly.
I saw camping accessories like I bought for biking and hiking trips in my teens, lawn and garden items I bought for our first house, home repair and automotive items for the little emergencies I was fixing (or creating) as I learned to DIY. Visited the team sports fan aisle where we accessorized before heading to a game in Iowa City or Green Bay. The hunting boots and dog training equipment had me recalling a special dog whose memory still holds onto my heart.
I didn't see merchandise as much as my life pass before me. All the phases. From the days my dad, who passed in 1966, dropped dimes in the slot of the mechanical rocking boat for me to ride, to me lifting my own toddlers into it, to watching my daughter do the same with her daughter and sons. To "Papa time" in the toy aisles with my grands. And all the little moments in between.
I inhaled the scents and viewed items that ignited vibrant memories, I watched the ghosts of my past walk by and felt the loss in my throat and tightening chest as I walked out the door.
Paul's Discount is so special and so hard to lose. I will miss everything about this store and the memories its shelves hold for me.
I wish to thank the Cassidy family for their three-generation commitment to our community, and for the memory of their iconic business.