LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Last weekend, Gabrielle Baker went to the mall.
It was a warm Sunday, and we had picked up her best friend Emily on our way up to Lexington. We turned into Fayette Mall and found a parking spot near Macy’s. And then, there she went. Or, rather, there she and Emily lagged behind so as not to be seen with the old stepmom.
The night before, her dad and I had decided it was time to let her go. She hadn’t said anything, but I knew our shopping experience would be somewhat painful if I tagged along with them. No longer does this nearly 14-year-old want an ugly parent spoiling her cool factor, and I knew it didn’t matter how many pretzels or Starbucks coffees I got her, I would be the embarrassment my own poor parents had been to me. So, as soon as we walked into Macy’s, we split up.
I’m not going to lie: It’s a strange experience walking around the mall knowing your kid is in there but you’re not with them. I looked half-heartedly at the purse section, graduated to shoes, considered a pair of flats and decided I was too distracted to wait for them to bring them out. Was it too soon to text her to see how everything was going? I looked at my phone and saw just 15 minutes had passed. Yes, probably. Should I text just to remind her that she should eat at Subway so she didn’t need to worry about her nut allergy? I made myself stop the composition. I thought about what being alone at the mall symbolizes as a teen and tried to comfort myself with that.
Because, as a teenage girl, there are few frontiers more exciting to conquer. My first foray shopping sans parents was with my best friend Kristin at Unicity Mall. Already at age 10, I knew this place nearly like the back of my hand as nearly every errand my parents ever ran took place there. We’d gone clothes shopping at The Bay and Young Canada. I got my hair cut at Unisex. We got our keys cut at The Key Master. I looked longingly at kittens at the pet store. We browsed, but never bought anything, at Marks & Spencer. Nearly my entire dining-out career had taken place at the McDonald’s in the food court. The mall was always a fun place to be. Good for people watching. A promising place to get a surprise toy or book.