Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

At 9 p.m, the night before Thanksgiving I was in a Wal-Mart Superstore, a regional mecca for shopping serving at least five counties and less than one mile from my mother’s home in Adair County, Kentucky. I needed perishables that I had not brought from New York for the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal.

This Wal-Mart Super Store was the size of an airplane hangar and the parking lot was full. I was full also, full of dread. I had visited Costco in the New York area and I must say I would rather be shot than go there again. I had traveled 14 hours by car, visited with my mother at the Summit Manor Nursing Home and was now, barely sane, trying to shop because I knew that no store would be open on Thanksgiving Day.

The husband had to push the GIANT sized cart since I was too tiny and too tired to manage it. Home not more than an hour and I had become the fantasy helpless female depending on the big strong protector. There was a person at the entrance who was the welcome to Wal-Mart person. She greeted us with “Honey, you do look tuckered out”, slowly intoned… but sweetly so.. in the patois of the town.

Great. I am too feeble to push a grocery cart the size of a Hummer and suddenly I look “tuckered out” as well. “I have just driven 14 hours from New York and I am certain that is reason enough to look tuckered out “, I replied with no audible sweetness.

“You take care, hear?” was the standard response.

I was ready for carnage and at Wal-Mart I knew they sold guns. Well. I would show them.

I quickly visited the ladies’ room and restored my complexion to youthful glow with my expensive New York products. I grabbed every hair care item in my purse (I do not travel light) and treated my auburn tresses with no mercy. I gave the hair a Texas boost with hairspray that lasts for eternity and could hold up a bank all by itself. When I exited that beauty restoration booth, honey, I was ready to swish down those aisles. I had forgotten all about travel and all about tired. I was about to engage Back to the Future at Wal-Mart.

My anger soon turned to amazement instead. There was a real bakery in this store with freshly baked crusty bread! There was a produce section with fresh herbs, crisp vegetables and fruits, unusual items like papaya and asparagus. Everything was arranged beautifully. There were knowledgeable assistants throughout the store. I had a list of what I might need that I had not brought and that might not still be at home in the kitchen larder. It became a longer list as I began to enjoy my shopping experience.

I needed a turkey trusser to close the turkey cavity after it was stuffed. I soon had 5 able assistants searching the aisles. At last, no such trusser could be found but I had women surrounding me, explaining how I should close the bird without any more expense. “Honey, you don’t need to spend money on some gadget. Just use a quilting needle with a big eye and some strong white thread. Don’t forget to sterilize it first”.

I bought yams at the last minute and marshmallows to go on top. An orange zester to add some interest to the yams seemed like a great idea….then some oranges as well.

In the dairy section I found the same organic milk and cream and butter that I buy at The Vinegar Factory at home.

I was heading to the linen section when the husband told me that the store was closing in 5 minutes. He urged me with our cart overflowing to get quickly in line before we would be prevented from checking out. In the checkout line, I thanked the cashier for working on Thanksgiving Eve. “I got the good shift”, she replied. “I’m home for the holiday at 11pm and I won’t be here working with the ones who got the short straw tomorrow.”

“But, you are closing in 5 minutes,” I responded.

“Honey, who you been talking to? This Wal-Mart is open 24 hours a day.”

“That liar I am with is the one who told me”, I replied.

“Oh, men”, she laughed. “They will do or say just about anything to get us out of a store. I knew a couple once…they aren’t married anymore come to think of it…they were in a store and he couldn’t get her out for love or money and he just went around the corner and started yelling, FIRE!!!”. That store emptied right out and she went out along with the rest!”

And then a relative found me. “Why Patty Yarberry, I almost stopped stopped breathing I simply could not believe my eyes when I saw you coming down the aisles and don’t you look good and how is your sweet Momma I heard she has been doing poorly seems like only yesterday that we were working on printing her memory book you know I work at the printers just off Gradyville road and….”

Well. How to respond?

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  • nicole browning December 2, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Dear Pat,
    Your hilarious story about Walmart brought back a memory of my first visit to a Walmart–also in Kentucky. Going to Walmart in KY must be the happening event… I was completely amazed over all that could be purchased in one place, and as a result shopped like I had never been in a store before in my life. So my trip to “discount” heaven turned out to cost me a complete fortune!!
    Anyway, I was happy to hear that you were able to spend Thanksgiving with your mother. I imagine that you ended up trussing that turkey just like a skilled surgeon…
    xo Nicole

  • Elizabeth Turner December 2, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Dearest Pat,
    Philip and I took delight at the thought of you taking on Walmart after your restroom restoration! I could also see you in Walmart with your 5 personal shoppers. But what I love most is this Thanksgiving trek to Kentucky with Douglas and the boys to make a special Thanksgiving for your oh so very special mother. We love you,
    Elizabeth and Philip

  • Cindy December 1, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Dear Pat and, of course, Douglas, I have been reading your beautiful tales in wvfc and think about you and your family every day. Your Mom was so much a part of the New York life and she was one impressive woman. I love the idea of you and Doug going down there to make her a special Thanksgiving dinner with all the love and necessary humour that goes with these days. We have spent the last year moving my Mom from the house in which she has lived for all of her 80 years to an independent apartment about 20 minutes away in Redding. Now we are spending the first Thanksgiving with her out of that house and on Shelter Island where it is sunny and glorious but the adjustment does not happen over night as you can imagine. Life, as you say, is so much more complicated than it once seemed. My brother’s sister in law died the day before Thanksgiving of liver and kidney failure at the age of 52 while my sister in law was half way there on a plane and then my Mother’s uncle was here in lymphoma remission but with an ear just cut off to remove a tumor. These are the lives of all our friends and family in one form or another and I love to read WVFC when you speak about how these parts of life can be handled. You must be now on your way north so I hope that will be a respite from all the driving. I know the change of not having Doug’s Mother there will be difficult. I am writing to send much love and gratitude for the many ways in which you have helped us in the years we have known you and to all the boy, Cindy