It all started innocently enough.
My friend from college, Bethany (who also runs myfakefoodblog.com, which is both hilarious and delicious, and who happens to also be from Florida) posted a picture on Instagram of her Publix Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers and tagged me in it, because if you know me at all, you would know this is a completely rational thing to do. Now, if you don’t know what the Publix Pilgrims are, hang with me. I will attempt to explain in a little bit, and also what led to my downfall this past Sunday.
A little while after she had posted her Instagram picture Bethany texted me with an emergency. Well, it would be considered an emergency if you grew up in Florida* in the 90s. And by emergency, I mean an “actual, factual, real-life, earth-shattering revelation” about someone she works with.
Now, let me fill in the story for those folks not lucky** enough to have been in Florida in the 1990s. Publix is a grocery store that started in Florida and has since grown into states in the Southeast United States. The thing is, though, Publix sort of has this whole other level of existence for Floridians where if I try to tell people from out of state that it’s a grocery store the immediate and overlapping next words from Floridians are, “but it’s so much…more.” They each have a sub shop that serves the divinest of sub sandwiches. The stores are clean. The prices are fair. The employees universally go out of their way to help shoppers and customers and wear large buttons on their uniforms that tell customers never to tip them, for shopping at Publix is a pleasure. No, literally. That’s the slogan: Where Shopping Is a Pleasure. And it is. Shopping at Publix is, quite literally, a pleasure. Florida puts Publix up on highway exit signs for the restaurants. Floridians love Publix. When I was in college in North Carolina (this was years before Publix had broken ground in North Carolina) I wrote to Publix to ask if they would please open a store in Winston-Salem. And you know what they did? They wrote me back. They thanked me profusely for being such a wonderful customer. They told me that customers like me where what made them proud to do what they do. It’s so much…more.
“Okay, so Publix is cool, I guess, but what did you mean by Publix Pilgrims, you crazy lady?” I’m sure you’re asking by now. I’m getting there, I swear.
So we know that while shopping at Publix might be a pleasure, just as pleasureful*** are the commercials Publix puts out, specifically around holidays. The Whos in Whoville didn’t need to sing to grow the Grinch’s heart, all they had to do was play him any one of the Publix commercials put out over the years. However, the single most quintessential Publix commercial that every Florida kid associates with Thanksgiving – and subsequently their childhood – is what we all call the Publix Pilgrims Commercial (capital ‘P’, capital ‘P’, capital ‘C’).
Here, I’ll give you a minute to soak it in.
Go ahead, play it again. It’s adorable. And I’m being quite serious here, these Publix Pilgrims are as much a part of Thanksgiving to me as turkey and pumpkin pie.
This is why when Bethany texted me that her coworker had in his possession the original Publix Pilgrims, I actually screamed. Yes, that’s right. The ones in the commercial.
I will give all Floridians in the room this time to compose themselves. Are we good? Okay.
After hyperventilating a bit, I got a little bit more scoop. Years and years ago, Bethany’s coworker produced the commercial (Bethany works in advertising, because she’s cool and I don’t understand how people that are cool actually still are friends with me), and I guess he got to keep the shakers. But the worst part? He doesn’t even know where they are now. My first question only a Floridian would ask was, “Why aren’t they in the Smithsonian?!” because in my head they are almost as culturally important as Dorothy’s red slippers. My other Florida friends corroborated this question as well, not even understanding that something this culturally and historically valuable to our favorite holiday could actually be privately held. I suppose he didn’t grow up with the commercial, but the fact that they aren’t in an historically-preserved shadowbox display above his (perhaps hypothetical) fireplace literally astounds me.
You see what I mean about the emergency text? Floridians get it. So let’s move on to what happened Sunday.
After getting back from the park where I screamed the scream that shall forever be known as “the scream of knowing someone who knows someone who possesses the original Publix Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers” (read as: high-pitched, incredibly loud, alarming, and misunderstood by those who did not grow up with this cultural reference of the Publix Pilgrims) I decided I must indoctrinate Connor into the world of associating the Publix Pilgrims with Thanksgiving. I turned on our TV (which is “smart”, meaning, YouTube-enabled), and played the commercial. Twice.
And then, not fully realizing the magnitude of what would happen after this, I accidentally allowed YouTube to autoplay the next video(s), which were all the Publix holiday commercials of all time.
Now, these are tearjerkers in the best of times, but with pregnancy hormones a-ragin’, I didn’t stand a shot.
First came this one, titled, “Head of the Table.”
*sniffle.* Is it dusty in here? It seems a little dusty in here.
And then this one played.
This is when the tears really started to get going.
But then…this one came next.
Oh man. I gave up all hope of wiping any tears away at that point. I was a full-fledged mess.
But finally, the coup d’état, the one that made me go from “crying” to “full-on ugly-cry bawling” wasn’t even a Thanksgiving/Christmas commercial. It was this one.
“You’re really going to love Mom.”
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME, PUBLIX?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
Even now, I can’t watch this commercial without ugly-crying. I think it might literally be impossible as a pregnant person to see this video and not sob.
You might think upon composing yourself, “But isn’t this all just marketing? Doesn’t it seem a little bit like Publix is toying with your emotions?” But, the thing about Publix is, it doesn’t feel like that. If you grew up with Publix, you get it. The people at Publix overwhelmingly make you feel this warm inside on any given Tuesday. These commercials are an extension of them.
It took me a good 20 minutes to compose myself after this marathon of (potentially pregnancy-related) emotional catharsis. Chris was crying too, only his tears were from laughing at me so hard he was reduced to tears. I’ll take it, I guess.
So that’s my story. If you are an emotionally-compromised pregnant person and do not want to be irrationally reduced down to a pile of sobbing tears in a matter of 5-7 minutes, do not watch Publix holiday commercials.
I would say I regret it, but I don’t. Thank you, Publix, for making everything better, and making every memory I have of being in your stores a pleasure.
*And maybe Georgia? Did you guys have Publix up there back then?
**Yes, I said “lucky to be in Florida.” Wanna rumble? Because I can rumble!
***Fun fact: I literally just learned that “pleasureful” is a real word
(And, to show you guys just how much I love you, this is a selfie I took no fewer than 10 minutes after Chris smartly turned the TV off to save me from myself. The struggle. is. so. real.)