The little mall that is closest to us, is up for sale. Not just on the market, heading to the auction block. It was never much of a mall, but we always liked going there. Also, going there made going to the big mall in Holyoke, MA a special event. I will age myself mightily when I list the stores I liked. There was a Walden Books – remember them? A tiny, by comparison to the mega-bookstores that put them out of business, bookstore with a layout you could browse from the doorway. I used to get calendars there, and we almost always bought our daughter a book. Faith was/is a voracious reader and there was something special about seeing a book, flipping through it, buying it and reading it on the way home. At least it appeared that there was.
Not quite in the mall, but just outside the entrance we always used, was a Radio Shack. Rows and rows of possibilities. Owning a British car required access to a Radio Shack. One Radio Shack moment still gets tossed around here at certain times. I had bought my wife a Weather Radio one year for Christmas – yes, I am just that romantic. She loved that thing, but one day it broke. We bought a new one, but it was bigger and had more fancy features, and she didn’t like it as much. I took the old one apart. Then I went to Radio Shack and bought a new antenna and a roll of solder. I fixed it! Nobody does that anymore. Apparently, given the chuckles that story brought when told, nobody spent three dollars to fix a nine-dollar radio back then. Still, I’m sad that Radio Shack is gone.
Just inside that entrance, was a pet store. It was a typical mall pet store, and I’m sure I don’t want to know where the animals came from, except for the free kittens. If you had kittens to give away, and if the store had room, they would take them. They were offered, “Free with a $15 Purchase” – your first of many such purchases because there’s no such thing as a free kitten. We always stopped to look at the kittens. One time, we were looking at a gray kitten, to join Oreo, so then Oreo and our first Irish Setter, Mitzi would stop fighting. Suddenly, this little black and white kitten in the next cage started banging on the cage door. He was standing up, smacking the door and screaming. “Take me, me, me, take me!” The Editor took the kitten and waited in the car while Faith and I did a minimal amount of shopping. By the time we got to the car, Cookie had been named because the Editor needed to be able to say “Cookie no” about a thousand times.
The mall had a G-Fox, which became Filenes, which became Macy’s. (It also had a Sage-Allen local Hartford), or maybe that was a J.C. Penny’s and a Steiger’s. Steiger’s, a Springfield, MA based department store, is wrapped in two funny and expensive memories. One was when Faith and I bought the Editor a dress to wear to a company Christmas party. A bold move, for sure, but we agreed that “mommy would like that dress.” The sales woman asked if she could help us make up our mind. We also agreed that the sales woman was the same size as the Editor. She volunteered to try it on and model it for us. We accepted her offer, bought the dress and it worked out very well.
The second Steiger’s moment followed an amazing act of physics. We were at lunch at a local chain restaurant when Faith spilled a gigantic glass of chocolate milk. Instead of spreading out and covering everything, it ran in a river-like stream straight into the Editor’s pocketbook which was on the seat next to her. Ruined, for sure – leather and chocolate milk can never fully be parted. Off to the big mall. We searched all the usual suspects. Entering Steiger’s I spotted a pocketbook that I thought was perfect. I didn’t look at the price tag. It was perfect, and it was expensive.
The stores are gone. Soon, the mall will be gone. Along with it, many happy shopping memories. Shopping today is a transaction – only! Getting nearly naked in front of your laptop’s camera so a cloud-based algorithm can “measure” you will never take the place of the sales woman at Steiger’s. Browsing a website will never equal walking through the mall, or the shopping center that preceded the mall but required walking outside, or the little store on Main St, where the owner wouldn’t sell you what he knew your mother wouldn’t let you wear, read, or play with – “BBs, you don’t have a BB-gun, why do you want BBs? Put those back.”
In answer to a question posed by Ritu on Saturday, I buy fewer gifts these days, partly because we adults have most of what we need, and partly because shopping isn’t fun anymore.