There are lots of kids running in the Natick Collection Mall today. A girl runs ahead of her strolling father on the lower level. A boy runs up to a woman in a chair, taps her back, then runs away. Soon afterward, a girl does the same thing. There are four of them, running a circle tag team, each touching the back of a woman sitting in a chair, twirling the pigtail of another child, talking with another woman. We are all in a sitting area just outside the Apple Store. “Alex, two minutes!” yells the woman whose back has been touched a dozen times by running children during the time it’s taken me to write this paragraph.
Darlene has been shopping somewhere for the past couple of hours. She must be hot on the trail of something to match a jacket she plans to wear to Thanksgiving at my parents’ home tomorrow, because I haven’t received any TXT messages from her. When we parted at P. F. Chang’s, she was headed to Macy’s.
I spent an hour talking with the sales guy at Sony’s gypsy-wagon retail presence 15 yards from the Apple Store. I spent another hour in the store, buying a Christmas present for my sister and a Magic Mouse for myself. I also talked Kindle with an Apple sales guy who had just bought a Kindle for his wife. He didn’t know that you can download 30,000 free Project Gutenberg books directly to your Kindle using James Adcock’s Magic Catalog and the Kindle’s experimental web browser. Neither the wireless-enabled Sony Reader Daily Edition (coming next month) nor the Barnes & Noble Nook (coming next week) will offer wide-open, though slow, Internet browsing the way the Kindle has ever since its introduction just over two years ago.
“Where r u?” comes a query from my TXT-savvy wife. “Where you left me…” I type back. So my blogging time is probably coming to a close. I’m not really ready to go yet and hope she takes her time to find the real me.
“How’d you do?” I ask as she appears at my side. Not well, as it turns out. Even in this high-end mall, retailers seem to have trimmed back their inventories to average-sized shoppers, leaving slim pickings for Petites. She has visited about 10 stores, but there are a few more left. She has walked a mile or more while I’ve remained on my geeky butt the entire time, except for a foray to Au Bon Pain for an oatmeal cookie and a coffee. Now she’s off again, to check out the final few stores.
I wish I were a better shopping companion. In the old days, I used to move from store to store with her, jotting notes in pocket notebooks for my would-be novel or memoir. We’d enter a store and look for a chair. Then she’d be free to roam and shop without any time pressure. The other husbands would stand around looking impatient and glum, because they had nothing to write with. I could replicate this pattern with my iPhone, checking email, twittering, feasting on Google Reader. But it’s not as satisfying a gambit as the paper notebook used to be — I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m just lazier and am not willing to cover that much terrain in a mall anymore. I love camping out with my MacBook Air, plugged into an outlet on the floor, surfing Apple’s Internet connection, dabbling away somewhere other than my study at the house. The screen’s the same, but the air, the sounds, and the lights are all odd, making me feel anonymous and right.
Gratitude is not a list. If it were, I’d have an endless one. I heard a guy this morning who will celebrate Thanksgiving at a halfway house say he feels grateful this year, despite having less money and possessions than at any time in his life. I believed him. The gratitude which enlivens me most surprises me with small knocks on my door. Hello? Is it time to go? An Asian toddler walks across the mall floor in her bare feet to check out the Apple Store display. Her grandmother, by the looks of it, pretends to hide behind a column and spy on her.
No big Thanksgiving message here. Just a few words written at a mall, with photos. From a time in my life when things were going better than I ever expected they might.