My Childhood Map Leads to The Mall

I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s blog about happiness the other day. Gretchen wrote a very wise and very helpful book for daily living (she is MY Oprah and can be yours too. Gretchen figures out the world so we don’t have to, also she’s my dear friend Liz’s older sister, which means Liz has hands-down the coolest older sister ever. Anyway, go buy Gretchen’s book and live better.) The blog that day was about comfort activities, comfort food, etc. something that you do to make you feel better, and I realized that my comfort place is THE MALL. Whenever I finish a book, or feel blue, or just need to wander about aimlessly so I can clear my head, I go to the mall.

I realize liking the mall is so very declasse these days. I can’t even count the number of snotty dismissive jokes so many people I know or encounter have made about the mall. I understand, it’s a cultural eyesore, it’s not for the educated privileged public radio locavore crowd, in fact, that crowd would rather wet paper towels and use that to wipe their newborn’s butt rather than buy some WIPES at the store. Yes, we actually went to a babycare class at a prestigious hospital where the instructor TOLD US TO DO THIS. (In her presentation she also made fun of the mall, like “when you take your baby out, let’s say – to the mall, although NO ONE goes there…”)

That should have clued us in that she was crazy. Because we spent the first two weeks of the kid’s life dutifully wetting paper towels and using that to wipe the baby’s butt, making our moms pre-soak them in a pail and then… ANYWAY, we finally gave in and bought (THE HORROR) medicated wipes. And have never looked back since. Mike’s mom I think collapsed in gratitude when she heard we gave up that hare-brained scheme. (What did we know? We were new parents!)

Anyway, I like the mall. I grew up in a mall. My parents operated several employees cafeterias in Sears and JC Penney and every day of my life when we first moved to America, we were at the mall. I now realize, the mall is home. It reminds me of my childhood, of my parents, of how every day we would lock up and put away all the M&Ms and the sandwich trays and during the summer I worked at our store so on my lunch hours I would wander around the mall. Contempo Casuals! The Limited! Size 3-5-7! (Remember that store? No size 9s!) The t-shirt gallery. Crazy Shirts? (with all the press-ons.) Ticketmaster. (Where my sister and I would buy tickets to the New Order and the Cure concerts with mom’s credit card.)

I can’t remember who said it, but the quote goes something like when life gets too hard, we all run back to the maps of our childhood, and take comfort in the familiar pleasures there. Kind of a nice idea isn’t it? And here I was thinking I just really liked food courts and chain stores.