Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Good morning,

An article in the Star announces that the Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe will close this fall, presumably a victim of changing consumer habits, the Internet, or its own cumbersome structure, depending on the commentator.  I let the paper fall to the table and think about the only time I have been to the Mall, as far as I can recall.  And I smile.

It's 1998 or 1999. My son and his friends are seven or eight.  Dennis decides we need a bizarre pilgrimage.  Over breakfast we debate the options and for some reason, he chooses the Great Mall of the Great Plains.  I cast my eyes his way, pushing all the doubt I can muster into my gaze but he  is impervious.  Patrick, Chris and Maher dance around the dining room, barely able to suppress their glee.  Meanwhile, I clear the table and shake my head.  It's certain to be disastrous, I tell myself.  But I'm a good sport.

We load the boys in the van and Dennis transfers from his electric wheelchair to the driver's seat.  The backseat volume rises as the chatter escalates.  The attraction of the Mall has driven the three of them into a delirium.  I've stopped shaking my head and now I just feel amused.  We head south.

Three turns around the lot land us in a row of handicapped parking spaces.  Dennis approves a space close to the door and we dropped the lift.  The boys climb out, Patrick standing near the van's doors to help Dennis while Chris and Maher scramble to the sidewalk.  I'm at the rear of the little group as we enter the door with a dozen or so other shoppers.

The corridors loom head of us and it's immediately clear that my stamina will fail me before too long but I'm game to try.  Dennis, being motorized, can keep pace with the children but I lag behind the group.  We pass store after store, overwhelmed by the colors and sounds.  We find a coffee kiosk and get drinks for everyone; juice for the boys, a depth charge for Dennis, an Americano for me.  Standard orders.  We continue our quest for entertainment.  We have no genuine need to shop; we're just there for the novelty.

The boys find diversion -- computers, a toy store, books.  Always books.  We make a few purchases on their behalf and keep going, barely a quarter way into the maze.  I'm feeling the pain, now, weariness combined with the slight agitation arising from my intense, unchecked claustrophobia.  I cannot see daylight. I might as well be underground.  My heart beats so loudly that I begin to apologize to strangers in muttered tones.

At the top of a long pitched walkway, I give out.  Dennis says, Here, babe, sit in my lap, and the boys crow.  The thought of Auntie Corinne -- Mom -- tooling through the Mall ensconced in the Gimp-mobile seems to delight them and I realize, suddenly, that I really have no choice. I can insist we leave or take the offer.  I sit, and we start down the ramp, which seems to be taking us from one end of an impossibly long hallway to the other.  The boys scamper ahead.

Then Dennis says into the back of my head, To hell with this tortoise speed, let's go to Warp Drive, and reaches around me to the controls.  Suddenly, we're dodging and darting around walkers on the ramp and the boys have started running.  They squeal, Dennis pushes the joystick, and I hang onto the arms of the chair and try to remember the words to the Hail Mary.  I get as far as full of grace but can't remember anything else so I repeat the first line over and over as we pass startled shoppers with frightened looks, pulling their bags and their children out of our path.  Hail Mary full of grace, Hail Mary full of grace, HAIL MARY FULL OF GRACE.

I see the boys jumping up and down and waving their arms, just around the bend of the walkway, where the railing ends.  I don't think Dennis sees them and I try to speak, but I'm pinned against his chest and there's no air in my lungs.  I'm still praying. My hair whips back, my purse strap breaks, and I clutch my jacket around me thinking, I'm going to die! and then we hit the bump and I go flying.

I land on the cold tile of the floor and the corridor falls silent.  The boys hold themselves completely still as Dennis cruises to a stop and shuts the chair off.  They gaze down at me.  Patrick looks scared; the other boys have blank faces.  I can't see Dennis's expression but I know it will be a mixture of aggravation and wonder, Did we really get this damn chair up to its maximum speed?

I pull my body to a sitting position and I feel Chris and Maher relax, but Patrick still wears a stunned expression.  I'm okay, I tell him, and he helps me stand.  We hover, at the end of the ramp way.  The males stare at me: Dennis, in his electric wheelchair, waiting for forgiveness (which is easier to obtain than permission); Patrick, waiting for confirmation that I'm not injured; and Chris and Maher just waiting for restoration of the equilibrium.

Well  Geez, Dennis, I finally say.  You sure know how to show a girl a good time.

And we laugh.

Just as I do now, thinking about that day, at the Great Mall of the Great Plains, so very long ago.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

P.S.  I am but one of the five people who took the trip to the Mall that day.  Each of the four others might recall this incident differently than I do.  Human memories can be tricky and playful things.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Missouri Mugwump™

My photo
I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.