There's a grocery store chain in Utah called REAMS, and this place is a trip.

First of all, this is what it looks like on the outside:

No, that picture is not from the early 80s. That is what REAMS and the cars currently parked in front of it look like today.

At REAMS, it is always Utah in 1983.

There was a REAMS down the street from my house when I was growing up. It was our go-to store. Why wouldn't it be? In one single stop you could buy cantaloupe, one of those giant rainbow jawbreakers, and jeans.

Side note about the jawbreakers. These were the childhood version of knitting for me.

They took weeks of concerted dedication to get through. The outer layer was made of some kind of milky powder substance. This was probably the most challenging section to penetrate. I would usually already have several sores on my tongue by the time I even got to the orange subsurface.

We would keep these in sandwich baggies that eventually collected our blood and dried spit as we held the candy up to our mouths and vociferously licked away to a rerun of DuckTales. Woohoo.

Well I don't know about your family, but in my family, we got these jawbreakers from REAMS. They were displayed in a large pile next to the video rental section, which exclusively contained VHS tapes of three or four episodes of children's television shows and straight-to-video low-budget family films.

The store smelled like if Wonder Bread was baked in an old library. The linoleum floor was a dull yellow, and there was always sad country music blaring through the crackling ceiling speakers.

But back to the jeans. "REAMS jeans" were regularly referenced in my house in threat form.

"If you don't take better care of your clothes, I'm going to drive down the street and buy you some REAMS jeans to wear to school tomorrow."

I would describe REAMS jeans for you, but you already accurately pictured them when you read the words "REAMS jeans."

The point is, they were not flattering on any human body.

You guys might think I'm joking about this grocery store selling jeans. I'm not. I just looked it up. REAMS has a website. On the "About Reams Food Stores" page it boasts: "We are now the largest western wear dealer in Utah," selling such "non-foods" as "boots, western, casual and work-wear."


Eventually I moved away from my parents' home. I grew up and changed. My parents changed. You changed. Everyone changed. Except for REAMS. REAMS stayed exactly the same.

The same linoleum floors.

The same selection of movie rentals.

The same jeans.

Last weekend I decided to can spaghetti sauce, but to my absolute frustration, I suddenly couldn't find my canning supplies when I needed them on Saturday night at 10:00. Skylar and I ripped the house apart looking for them, but they were nowhere to be found. So I called my mother to ask her what I should do.

"You'll have to go to REAMS," she told me.


"REAMS. They have the best canning supplies."

A sore immediately formed at the end of my tongue as I inexplicably started smelling dust.

I hadn't heard the word "REAMS" in nearly 20 years.

"Is that even still around?"

I googled it and discovered there was a REAMS only a couple miles from my house, so the next morning I drove to it at 9:00 AM.

I walked inside and passed the jeans. Tim McGraw's "Don't Take The Girl" was vibrating from above. An elderly woman who had handwritten her shopping list on a long roll of receipt paper was maneuvering her Jazzy through the sliced bread aisle. A man wearing a black cowboy hat was fishing through a bin of $1 Christian DVDs.

I found my canning supplies and took them to the one checkout that was open.

A child was sucking on one of the rubber dividers used to separate groceries on the conveyor belt the employee was moving with her hands. The child's mother turned and saw this, telling him to stop, and then gesturing toward me, "so that man can use it." Not "because that's disgusting" or "because that thing is covered in diseases" or "because people need to touch that."

Just, "so that man can use it."

I paid for my canning supplies and thanked the employee, who was wearing a badge that said "Marge: 35 years of service."

I took my things and drove home, canning, calling my mother to ask for tips and advice for my struggling domesticity, and unconsciously humming the melody to Deana Carter's "Did I Shave My Legs For This."

~It Just Gets Stranger