A Vibrant Christmas

Online shopping was a blow, but it was something the malls of America might have been able to survive if it were not for the dissemination of vibrancy throughout suburban America:

A shooting inside the Nordstrom department store at the Mall of America on Friday night left a 19-year-old man dead, according to Bloomington Police Chief Booker Hodges.

Hodges said during a late-night news conference that the shooting involved an altercation between two groups of young men and that the individuals involved fled the scene immediately after the shooting, which occurred about 7:50 p.m. on the eve of Christmas weekend.

A Bloomington officer who was nearby heard the shots and arrived to find the victim on the ground, Hodges said. “We had 16 officers working today in the mall. Sixteen cops,” Hodges said. “And they still decide to do this. I’m at a loss.”

I used to love going to Rosedale, Southdale, and occasionally, the Galleria, at Christmastime. From the time I was a little boy, they were vast and magical Winter Wonderlands, where children could roam freely and window-shop. I used to wander alone from one end of the mall to the other, with particular attention paid to B. Daltons and Games by James. I still remember being 11 years old and walking back through the parking lot at Rosedale to our Oldmobile station wagon with my father, who was carrying what seemed at the time to be a very large package.

When I asked him what it was, he said “the best Christmas present you’ll ever get”. I can’t say he was wrong, because it was a Mattel Intellivision, and with the possible exception of an Apple //e with two disk drives, it was the device that I loved most throughout the course of my life. From that year on, I’d happily be abandoned in Sears when my mother was shopping, playing Utopia or Sea Battle in the little electronics section.

When I started working at Dayton’s at the age of 15, I began seeing Christmas from the other side, from the retailer’s perspective, and it was every bit as magical. Dayton’s was one of the anchor department stores at all the Dales, and it was always exciting when the Christmas decorations would start going up the day after Thanksgiving. The sights, the lights, and the smells, taken in sum, were nothing but pure and unadulterated joy.

Christmastime in Minneapolis, 1963

This sense of communal magic and wonder is one of the many things that vibrancy has cost America. Perhaps it wasn’t important, perhaps it wasn’t a significant part of the Christmas season, but I loved it as a child and it grieves me to know that it is part of the world that we have lost.