I grew up going to the mall. I lived in Houston, Texas for most of my life and we had several big sububurn shopping malls on our side of the metroplex. My childhood Saturdays were often spent walking for a couple of hours at the mall and buying things my mom wanted. I remember frequent visits to Hickory Farms for the free samples, Montgomery Wards for clothes and household items, and Spencers for blacklight posters and gag gifts. The Walgreens drug store at Sharpstown Mall had a lunch counter where my mom would buy us giant real beef burgers and thick homemade milk shakes served with whipped cream and a second helping in a stainless steel mixing cup. There was also a Denny’s restaurant located adjacent to the mall where we would sit in a booth and eat delicious sandwiches and fries with ketchup in little metal cups, and a James Coney Island hot dog restaurant with a second floor where we gobbled down chili dogs with liquid cheese on top. My food memories are strong! Later we moved to a different suburb called Alief where they built a smaller mall called Westwood. I remember eating at the Chilis and Los Tios restaurants near that mall, as well as the Furrs Cafeteria inside the mall. My mom cooked three meals a day for many years, but after my older siblings moved out and she started working outside the home, we started going to restaurants a lot more, especially when my dad was out of town for work. But this was supposed to be about malls, not restaurants.
So today, December 19, 2020, less than a week before Christmas 2020, the (first?) year of the Covid pandemic, I decided to go to the mall again. I say again because I also went yesterday. But I didn’t go INSIDE the mall yesterday, I only went into two stores from their external entrances. This is the mall I went to. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katy_Mills We call it Katy Mills. It is located in Katy, Texas. It is an ‘outlet mall’ , but it’s huge and has good stores, not one of those old style outlet malls. Where I live now has an extinct outlet mall of the other type.
I waited all day for my son to get his act together so he could go with me. I got lots of chores done so that’s good, but I was chomping at the bit by the time we finally left at 2:00! That is way late. I was up at 6:00 this morning! Grr. But the whole point of the trip was to get him a leather jacket for Christmas, so I had to be patient. I wanted him to pick it out and try it on! After a 45 minute shower he was finally ready and we hopped in the minivan and hit the interstate with way too many other holiday travelers. Ongoing road construction makes travel to Katy a risky, anxiety producing adventure on a good day.
We made it safely and pulled into the outer ring of the road that circles the giant mall. ( See photo below) I just started saying OMG, OMG, over and over. (Sorry God) The road was packed and the parking lot was packed and cars were driving all over the place! It was mayhem. It really is crazy. But I drove on past the worst of it to a less crazy section , still packed, into an aisle where I had to pause because someone was blocking the narrow aisle. After finding a spot, we proceeded to the door before realizing we forgot our masks so we had to go back. Finally we entered the external door of Saks Off 5th store which is an outlet store for Saks Fifth Avenue stores.
Now you must remember that presently and for the past almost 18 years we have lived in the country, meaning we live where there are lots of stars in the dark skies, no homeowners associations and deer freely roam through the pastures. My two youngest were born and raised in this new-to-me environment, unlike my four older kids who were born in Houston hospitals and all spent at least a few years in a suburban neighborhood. So now when we need to buy things we go to Walmart which is a 15 mile drive from home. Walking into this real, quality clothing store felt like I was going back in time! For some, shopping at an outlet mall may seem cheap, but for me, those were the nicest clothes I’d seen on racks in a very long time. I held myself back from buying myself a new wardrobe and instead searched for the leather jackets. There was only one small rack with about 10 or so jackets, several styles. My son is the quiet, passive type, so I patiently waited as he tried on most of them. He is pretty slim, but has wide shoulders and didn’t want a tight fit, so, surprisingly ,we ended up with an XXL. I’m so glad I made him come with me because I never would have bought an XXL! I was very happy that it was exactly the price I had hoped not to go over and that he really liked it. I looked it up online when we got home, doesn’t everyone?, and we got a good deal! For the curious, this is the jacket. No, I didn’t pay that much! https://rontomson.com/collections/leather/products/leather-jacket-black
After buying the jacket from a cashier that I was a little worried about, she looked like she was barely able to stand up, we went out into the mall area. Yikes! I haven’t been in the company of that many people since?? It was your typical weekend before Christmas shopping day, with masks. Due to my adhd, I get a little overwhelmed by crowds and I struggled a little to focus on where to go next. I wanted to go to the Books A Million but there was a long line outside the store due to them limiting the number of people in at one time. This seemed ridiculous to me because people were definitely not social distancing in the mall hallways. We passed a store called Pink that sells lingerie for little girls which I find very disturbing, it had a long line. Next to it was an empty space that formerly housed a store called Justice . I found that very ironic. We walked on and found the Nike Outlet store where I wanted to buy some socks for another son. We had to wait in line to go in, but only for a minute. The store was very crowded. After finding the socks I browsed the shoes, and then we went to get in line to pay, with at least 50 other people! After a minute or two we abandoned ship, not willing to stand in line for 20 minutes or more for socks. I can go back next week or buy them from another store.
We made our way back to Saks and back out to the van. In the van my son remarked how polite everyone was in the mall. He was right! It was a very positive vibe. My husband later said it was probably because people were so desperate for a bit of normalcy and happy consumer escapism. I have to agree. I really don’t like shopping but I do like people and it made me really happy to be out there in real life with real people buying real stuff, instead of online shopping from home. I admit that a tiny part of my brain was nervous about the risks of catching the virus, even though I have not really been afraid of it until now. I have said prayers that no one will suffer for our adventure in leather jacket buying and I will leave that in God’s hands.
I hope my son will have fond memories of our time at the mall during a pandemic in 2020. We fought through the traffic to go to Popeyes chicken after the mall because you have to get food when you go shopping , it’s a rule . ☺️ He said the chicken sandwich was “really good!” , so hopefully it created a happy food memory . Then I pointed out the hospital where he was born which is now closed down. Bravely we followed the crowd back to the I-10 raceway and headed west through the construction zone again. Finally, after a slowdown at our exit, we exhaled as we made it to the familiar country roads just as the fiery sun was setting behind long clouds. The trip was worth every bit of effort it took.
How about you? Are you going to the mall? Do you have any fond memories of going to the mall or out to eat as a child or teen? I’d love to hear your stories! Merry Christmas!