I could see Mother Mall at the end of the hall, separated from the hullabaloo of the food court by the tempered glass that served as a wall to her small shop. Behind the register with her silver hair glistening down to her shoulders her eyes are transfixed, behind the lenses of her glasses, on the register as she sold some wayward sales associate a can of Cheddar Pringles and a 32 oz Soda. She listens intently as he pours out his soul of how he is tired, underpaid, and never appreciated. She shakes her head with deep concern.
The Quick Mart is our escape and she is our counsel; despite our differences surrounding the soda fountain we were family. Plastic Abercrombie workers, middle aged Sears associates, skaters from Journeys, and even Scary Larry who wandered the mall scouring ten bucks in exchange for hand washed store windows were all equals once we passed the threshold of this tiny shop of conveniences.
Stories were told of harassing customers over the candy aisle, or advice was offered for achy joint remedies over the humming of the hot dog cooker. We would celebrate with a shower of cheers and congratulations for well earned promotions or gather together what change and bills we may happen to have in our pocket in aid those who may have lost their way.
And Mother Mall was there, listening to it all. She cared for our struggles, and remembered our names. We were her children, no matter our age. She continuously probed for resolution with great personal concern. She cried when we cried, and laughed when we laughed. She was a our constant, our joining force, and she loved us all. She was the heart of the mall community.
Two years had passed since I’d seen her caring face when I came up pregnant. I made a point to return and visit her. Let go from the Quick Mart for no logical reason I wandered the mall, imagining she wouldn’t have strayed far from the family. As I walked down the aisles I was stopped by faces of my past. I received hugs from the manager of Corn Dog Heaven and a huge thumbs up from the assistant at Game Stop. My old associates now management of course showered me with good wishes. The baristas of B&N leapt with glee upon seeing me and my 7 and a half month bump. Finally I found her, just as I had given up, she stood at the edge of a kiosk just outside of Forever 21. From a distance she spotted me and nearly ran to my side, she gushed over my figure, and rubbed my belly offering me a vast pool of congratulations.
Even more years past when I returned with my daughter, not expecting the same glorious faces eagerly rushing with open arms to myself as well as my daughter. My mall community was my support and in return I opened my heart to them. I opened the doors of my store for refuge on rough days. I leant them my ears and my time when they were in need. Somehow over the years that was not forgotten.
Why wouldn’t we be so close when our jobs consume so much of our time. Not able to see family on the Holidays or weekends, and sustaining life with a chaotic schedule we found the refuge in whatever consistency we could. That just so happened to be one anothers’ equally tired and understanding faces.
There was a bond in the mall I’ve found no workplace sense, and somedays I really miss it.