Sunday afternoon at the Hampshire Mall is eerily empty, except for two
solemn souls stationed at each of the counters:
Sbarro’s, Subway & something Asian.
I search in vain for the soft pretzel cart, but she’s gone too.
The few shoppers I see are other
Moms like me, “side kicks”
to boys don’t really want to be shopping
with their moms,
but aren’t old enough to drive,
$40 shorts that pull your pants down.
“This is depressing,”I say, as I look around at sons walking ahead
of their mothers, while she carries their new clothes, and strives to be relevant.
Each teen stares down at a screen, even
if it’s empty, just
to avoid her.
“Girls shop with each other,” my son explains.
I let him carry his own bags, and notice that he didn’t bring his phone, and that he’s
walking beside me.
I’m thankful for the few years he has on these other boys which means it now matters less to be seen with me,
in the event anyone sees us,
here in this empty mall on a Sunday afternoon in rural Massachusetts,
while his younger brother and father jump off the dock at the pond, and I
stand in line at American Eagle.
Lloyd does another circle around the store, searching
for yet another dingy shade of ragged shorts,
dismissing each of my fairer suggestions,
as I watch another son do the same, with a display of
as if he can no longer bear the burden of a lifetime of her
attention and care.
I realize that our job is simply to open the wallets and provide the transportation and to nod our heads at choices we wouldn’t choose.
Just a gossamer thread holds us
a credit card.
What happens when he can drive?
Or has a job?
Or has someone else to tell him he looks good?
On our way back to Vermont, I hide
I want him to myself.
Once he was in the booster seat behind me,
grasping for my hand,
now he sits beside me
or in the driver’s seat,
telling me about
about the Topsiders he wants;
about his classes for next year, Spanish III;
about studying abroad; maybe Costa Rica, maybe not.
I breathe in what remains of the connection
between us, without an ounce
for the afternoon I “spent”
at the mall.
Kelly Salasin, June 2011