Saturday, May 5, 2012


I found out yesterday that the mall I grew up in closed its doors forever on May 1.  When I say "grew up", I mean that almost literally.  I can trace my late childhood and all of my adolescence by the history of that mall.

I watched as it was built across the street from my house.  I saw them take the wide open field where I learned to play softball and turn it into a 2 story shopping extravaganza with attached parking decks.  I enjoyed the freedom to finally be old enough by my mom's standards to walk across the street and shop by myself, for myself.  I earned her trust by proving that I wouldn't be a mall rat (you know those obnoxious teenagers that never spend money, just block the way and get on your last nerve?), but would instead be a responsible citizen.  I mastered video games there, had several dates at the movie theatre in the adjoined shopping center (which was just the open part of the mall to those of us who called this place home), and eventually bought my husband's wedding ring there.

In essence, I've done life at that mall.  I have memories that are dear to me that include this place.  But this blog post is not about an homage to commerce or even a walk down memory lane.  Rather, this blog is about what happened in my mind yesterday when I heard the news that it's now closed for good.

Over the past 20+ years, the mall of my childhood morphed into a place that I hardly knew.  It fell into disrepair, disinterest, and eventually disaster as the structure of it slowly crumbled and the stores in it slowly moved out to more attractive, lucrative locations for their businesses.  Watching that process was hard, because in my mind, I can remember the hustle and bustle of a thriving part of my hometown's economy.  Living right behind the mall, I remember plenty of Novembers and Decembers when it was hard to get home because of the traffic coming in and out of the mall for holiday shopping.   THAT is the mall of my memory, not what it had recently become - an empty shell of a building, barely utilized, rarely visited.

As I pondered those two dichotomous images of the mall in my mind yesterday, I came to a conclusion that is about so much more than the mall.

Sometimes, I think, it's better to let something die so that you can honor the memory of what it was, rather than watch it struggle to become something it will never be.

The more I chewed on that thought yesterday, the more true it felt to me.  Over the past 20 years, this mall has tried and tried to relive its heyday, without much success.  The city council has promised multiple times a new, better, shopping experience for the residents of my hometown, which has not yet come to fruition, and may never.  In short, this mall passed its prime.  It was upstaged by bigger, better malls that were close enough geographically that people didn't mind spending the extra time and fuel to enjoy a much better and more productive shopping experience.  It will never again be what it once was, no matter how hard people tried to make it so.  And watching it struggle to survive with so many odds against it wasn't motivating and inspirational, like watching some battles that are hard-fought.  It was painful.

What does this have to do with anything besides this mall?  Well, the way I see it, it's a real life lesson.

There are things in my life - relationships, habits, activities I engage in - that are so much like this mall was.  Struggling to stay what they've always been.  Trying to hang on past their heydays.  As much as I'm someone who outwardly acknowledges the necessity of change, inwardly, I'm not so quick to let go of the familiar, the comfortable, the routine.  Even when it no longer serves its former purposes in my life.  Change is so much harder for me than I've ever let myself admit.

But letting some things "die" in my life allows me the opportunity to honor the good memories of them...and then move forward into a brighter future.  Embracing the changes as they come instead of holding too tightly to the past seems to be a more healthy attitude in many regards. 

Obviously, there are foundational, bedrock relationships and habits in life that should never "die".  But honestly, without allowing those things in me to change and grow too, I believe they won't thrive, and could eventually die a horrible, ugly death...just like this mall did.  In fact, I think I've lived out that very thing.

So goodbye to the mall of my childhood.  I will cherish the memories I have of the time I spent in you.  But I will learn the best lesson of all from your demise - that life is about change, and that I need to be flexible and embrace it, or I will never become what I'm capable of becoming.

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