This Is Us
I Raised My Child in a Shopping Mall
I raised my child in a shopping mall.
Not the kind of my youth: An enclosed, 1980’s dark-floored cave with a Spencer’s and The Limited, Orange Julius and Chick-Fil-A; a constant fountain whooooooshing in the background.
No, this shopping mall is a modern, outdoor arrangement with a small fountain in which people throw pennies along with doomed and prophetic wishes. It has every conceivable type of food, a bookstore, Best Buy, Chuck E. Cheese and more boutiques and large brand names than anyone could ever shop in a day.
This all occurs to me as my now-19-year-old daughter, Isabel, gets ready to graduate from college. She was raised in a shopping mall, I think. I did it!
I often tell her that her life would be great fodder for a children’s book. Eloise-level fantasy. How many children, I ask, end up living in a shopping mall?
To be clear, we didn’t live in one of the stores. That would be both wonderful and ridiculous. We live just feet away, though, in a condo complex in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where we still live. The problem with this, I have often noted, is that when you live steps away from an ice cream store, cupcake shop and chocolate boutique, the temptation is to go there all the time. We did not do that and, instead, would often end up walking two minutes to the bookstore and spend whole mornings and weekends there. It is still our sanctuary.
During the early days of the pandemic we window-shopped, thinking about the clothes we saw and what events we might wear them to, if there were anywhere we could go. How lucky we are! we would say to each other, to have so much to look at when the world has stopped in time. Many people have only their homes and grass and trees.
We have a kingdom.
We landed in this place right after the 2011 tornado super outbreak destroyed our home. Almost 30 percent of our city was gone too and the run on rental housing was a fierce battle, since we live in a college town. I managed to find this condominium, as I told a friend-of-a-friend stranger…