My King Soopers

A mass shooting; childhood memories; a terrible Venn diagram that now overlaps

Scott Lamb
Human Parts
3 min readMar 23, 2021

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Photo by Jett Coffeen on Unsplash

There used to be a Chuck E. Cheese’s in the Table Mesa Shopping Center in Boulder. When I was a kid, in the ’80s. When it first arrived, it was almost magical to me — the notion that they built something like this, just for kids, was hard to fathom.

You couldn’t see the spot where the Chuck E. Cheese used to be in the background of the press conference yesterday. But you could see, over the shoulder of Police Department Commander Kerry Yamaguchi as he initially addressed the nation about the mass shooting at King Soopers grocery store earlier in the day, the Play It Again Sports where I worked a few summers in high school. It is a surreal experience to have the background of your childhood overlaid with a new foreground, a scene of mass gun violence. Surreal, but also not as rare as it should be.

The site of yesterday’s horror, the Table Mesa location of King Soopers in Boulder, was a central part of the experience of life in that part of town, South Boulder. I was born and raised in the suburban-idyllic rolling hills just south and west of it — the Table Mesa Shopping Center was the last commercial zone on that end of town, and between it and the mountains, a wide expanse of single-family houses, cul de sacs, schools and parks, neighborhoods with names like Devil’s Thumb and Shanahan Ridge, and lots of trailheads.

From the perspective of those neighborhoods, King Soopers was the first and closest sign of the larger world. It, and the Table Mesa Shopping Center around it, was our public sphere. It was where our family did all our grocery shopping, its pharmacy was where we picked up medicine when I got ear infections as a child, where we picked up donuts on the weekend, sheet cakes for birthdays. It was open 24 hours, so it was also where we’d go after sneaking out of the house on late summer nights in high school, just to kill time or to pick up toilet paper to go throw at TJ Jackson’s house (sorry TJ). It was a place a lot of kids got first jobs, bagging groceries.

It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t even particularly special as a grocery store, but it did have a weird name, and it was ours.

One of my earliest memories is getting separated from my mom one day while we were shopping there — I walked off as she was waiting for something at the butcher counter because I wanted to go back and look at the orange juice machine they had, one of those Rube Goldberg machine-like things that had a basket of oranges on the top and would mash them into juice right before your very eyes. I remember the cold terror of thinking I would never see her again.

Many years later, after my parents died, I’d come back for groceries there during the summer I lived in their house, cleaning out their things. Oreos were a key item then, I remember the exact aisle they used to keep them.

People from home are posting pictures from past times at King Soopers in my social media feeds. Some of those people have moved away, some haven’t, but there’s a clear shared sense that it was both a store where one could buy milk and pink-tinged strawberry cookies as well as extension of life, a place that was both public and private, intimate and shared. A place we all, naively, tacitly believed was protected, walled off, from exactly this part of modern American life. We were wrong.

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Scott Lamb
Human Parts

VP, Content @ Medium. I'm here to support people writing words on the internet. Priors: BuzzFeed, YouTube, Salon.com