We'd be rich, but not too rich. And we wouldn't realize it until years later when we'd pass our handsome brick childhood home in St. Louis Hills and realize that it was big and we were privileged. If we grew up in St. Louis Hills, our parents would have still made us do chores for money and we'd save it to buy candy at LeGrand's.
We'd hop on our bikes once the weather broke in spring, and ride up to the store where we'd make "suicides" out of the fountain sodas and sneak refills even though we didn't buy a large enough size to get them for free. When we finally turned sixteen, we'd make up excuses to drive there and buy pork steaks for our parents. We'd keep the change from their $20 and stash it for a six-pack of beer that we'd convince our best friend's brother to buy for us, and our long-forgotten bikes would silently rust in the back yard.
Alas, we didn't grow up there. But it's the story we project upon the grade-schoolers whom we see occupying some of the tables at LeGrand's. LeGrand's is charmingly old-fashioned: Part deli, part market, some of the old-school cash registers don't even accept credit cards, and the handful of tables are filled with kids drinking sodas and juices — a couple from actual bottles. Bottles! Workers behind the meat counter cheerily distribute samples, and homemade treats sit wrapped in clear plastic.
We are thrown off by the friendliness of the staff. "What are you cooking today?" replaces a perfunctory greeting from behind the counter when an employee catches us staring dreamily at the steaks. We turn around to make sure he's talking to us and not to someone behind us, some regular whom he's known for years. He isn't. His affable nature is contagious and we're a little taken aback by it. "Oh, uh, nothing big. Burgers and dogs," we say, sort of embarrassed that we aren't taking LeGrand's up on some of their more expensive, rosy cuts of meat. "We've got great hot dogs," he says, complimenting our choice like a waiter who's impressed with the kind of wine a patron has chosen to pair with his foie gras.
We get a sandwich, a bag of chips, burgers, dogs and a six-pack of New Belgium's Springboard Ale to go. The label tells us Springboard Ale is made with lycium, schisandra and wormwood, and its makers describe it as "exhilarating," which we don't agree with. Tequila's exhilarating, as is opening a dictionary to the exact page that you need; Springboard Ale is not. But it is quite good. The mélange of Chinese herbs and the oak barrels the ale is aged in commingle and lend it an earthy taste, like the damp ground after a thaw.
A great beer, actually, for this time of year as the planet is gently begins to tilt toward the sun. This neighborhood is coming back to life like the buds on the hundred-year-old trees that guard its houses. And soon, kids will get out their creaky bikes that still have some miles left in them after a couple of good pushes.
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