“Yeah, I know,” was all he said when I mentioned it to him. No further discussion was necessary.
In Zac’s heart, that was always going to be his job whether the store ever existed in reality again or not.
I’ll never forget how we found out it was gone. We were standing near the Old Park the night of the tornadoes surveying as much of the damage downtown as we could in the dark.
“At least the Pig’s still standing,” Zac said. “Barely,” someone near us responded.
I think our hearts sank simultaneously.
Zac was in his fifth year of college with no real exit strategy when we got married. Rather than spending money on a degree that Zac wasn’t sure he could turn into a career anyway, we decided that he would quit school and move from part-time to full-time at the Pig.
He took to his new responsibilities as produce manager right away. No one was prouder of that little corner of the store than Zac.
We developed an unspoken (and obviously naïve) understanding that Zac would be at the Pig for the rest of his life. We were never going to be millionaires, but Zac would be happy, which mattered more to me than money.
That’s why it hurt so much to watch him grieve over the loss of the Pig. If I had a dollar for the number of times I heard him say, “I miss my store,” in the past year, we could be part owners of the new one.
Although Zac was grateful that he had been offered work at the Bozemans’ Sumiton store a week after the storm, he never intended for that situation to become permanent. When months passed and it became obvious that circumstances were preventing the Pig from coming back to Cordova any time soon, we started discussing other job options for him.
Zac, a generally happy-go-lucky guy who believes everything will turn out alright, grew increasingly depressed.
Then we heard that the Bozeman family had bought the old Food World building in Dora. Suddenly, there was a light at the end of our tunnel.
We continued discussing those other prospects because some of them offered health insurance, which would have lifted a huge financial weight from our shoulders.
We were still talking about the pros and cons of each choice until Zac walked into the new store for the first time. After that, his end of the conversation changed from if he should return to the Pig to when he would.
Honestly, I was upset that the decision seemed to be final with or without my approval. But after Zac gave Wyatt and me a tour of the new Pig one Saturday, I knew that his Facebook profile should remain the same.
Zac’s first official day back at the Pig was March 21. He was so excited that he left our house at 6:30 a.m. He sent me a text about 15 minutes later saying that he had beaten everybody there except the electricians.
I’ll never forgive myself for not taking any pictures of Zac at work in the old Pig, so I’ve stopped by the new store several times to document the current produce section taking shape. I’m sure the gentleman who is working that area with him is wondering, “What’s with his crazy wife and the camera?”
The day that we waited nearly a year for arrived last Wednesday when the Piggly Wiggly opened its doors.
Of course, a lot of us wish it was on the other side of the river, and maybe it will be again someday. It’s more important to realize that just like a church is about people and not a building, the Pig family cannot be defined by a zip code.
The Piggly Wiggly is more than a source of income and tax revenue. It’s a place where a lot of hurting people can find healing just by being together again.
It’s still the folks we love from down home. They’re just a little farther down the street.