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When I was in junior high (or middle school, as we called it), “they” built a mall about three miles from my school. At that time, school was at the very edge of any commercial development – I think the closest sizeable business, aside from home-based little photo studios and woodworkers, was a grocery store. I believe it was a Piggly Wiggly.
And of course, there was the 7-11 that was just on the other side of the school property line – you could sneak down the hill through the woods to get an Icee or Pixie Stix or Nik-L-Nips if you were brave enough to risk getting caught.
But suddenly, almost within our grasp, was South Square Mall. Almost heaven.
My friends and I used to beg whatever parent was available to take us there after school and let us hang out. And hang out we did. We would shop idly – maybe buy a scarf, a record, an Orange Julius. We would mill around the food court with its orange formica tables. We would check out boys. We would yell at each other from different levels of the mall. We would play on the escalators. We would shriek and whisper and laugh and wonder what schools other kids went to – other kids who were doing the exact same thing.
Ah, the mall. It provided a sense of adulthood and freedom. Except for one instance, when I found myself trapped in the seatbelt of my best friend’s father’s pale blue Cadillac convertible. It was one of those lap belts and it was completely jammed and I was completely trapped. Fortunately, I was also completely skinny and after about 15 minutes of struggle, which included shedding my jeans, bruising my hiplets and sucking my stomach in so that it was flush with my spine, I was able to slide out from the top. I amazed even myself. I felt like a teenage female Houdini.
Fast forward 32 years. Fly west 1700 miles west. Turn my brown hair blonde and my green eyes blue. And you have Kelsea, hanging out at Flatirons Crossing Mall with her friends. Guess what they do? They loaf around the food court, only this one has a fireplace. They buy little things like smelly rubber balls. They sample the goods at the Apple store. They play on the escalators. They shriek and whisper. They follow people around. They scope out cute guys. They speculate on the identity of other students. Hmmm….sounds so very, wistfully familiar.
Kelsea said, in the course of a conversation the other day, “Everyone gets thrown out of the mall once, right?” It was a rhetorical question, and one she immediately regretted. My response? I looked at her. And decided it was one of those follow-up questions best left unasked. She needs to have some things to tell me later.
I do believe that one more torch has been passed.