Alas, we lived at a rural crossroads far from any commerce. Mom had to drive for any forgotten grocery items, we had to wait for the rare ice-cream truck to get a Popsicle, and it would be years before I knew the pleasure of a frozen mint patty.
I had an idea of what I was missing. During Sunday visits to Grandma's, my sister, cousin and I were sometimes allowed to walk to Danny's Dairy Bar for fireballs and root beer barrels. And one summer, when Open Pantry appeared at the edge of a sprawling housing tract called West Point, I walked to the store with some friends who lived there to get ice cream sandwiches.
The presence or nonpresence of such local stores have affected my memories and happiness in the various places I've lived since. In my college town, Mr. Smithmeyer would sell you one egg to go with that brownie mix for the dorm, but there was no similar place to walk to in suburban Cleveland, where I went to grad school. A car was necessary when I first moved back to Pennsylvania, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Blackburn's, which also operated a veggie co-op, at the edge of the townhouse development where Tom and I settled after marrying.
In Palmyra, Pa., Eisenhauer's was right across the street, and I missed it when we moved to Chester, Va., where I could walk to a 7-11 only at great risk. But on North Caicos, I've always been able to walk to KJ's.
Now I live in a corner store paradise, where the stores themselves are changing for the changing neighborhood. I can still get milk, soup and the occasional ice cream sandwich, but I can also find locally-roasted coffees, fresh pasta, high-end deli meats and craft brews, sometimes on tap. Here the corner stores rival coffee shops and restaurants as a place to hang out or get a good simple meal. I definitely approve of this trend.
Let the summer romance begin.