I have become quite the sentimental fool within the last few years, largely because I realize things change and not always for the better.
This time, my nostalgia is mourning the mecca of my youth: Georgia Square Mall.
“You can’t get in the mall anymore,” Mama told me over a year ago.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You can’t get in the mall anymore,” she repeated. “Someone said there’s something keeping people from getting in the entrance to one of the main stores. Do you think it’s closing?”
I couldn’t imagine that and told her so, explaining it was probably just a store remodel going on or maybe they had limited access due to COVID.
We never found out exactly what that person was talking about, but it planted a seed of worry about our beloved mall.
Surely it wouldn’t close – it had been such a great shopping destination during my youth.
The news became more unofficially official in an online forum recently when someone shared pictures of the mostly empty mall, leading me to conduct a search only to find the Wikipedia description read, “a largely vacant mall” and a proposal for the mall to become a mixed-use development. My heart sank.
I’m not sure what was to blame. Was the mall another casualty of the pandemic or had online shoppings contributed slowly to its demise? Stores had slowly died off over the years, yet to me, it still felt like the mall had a lot of customers.
Maybe that was just love and mere nostalgia because I can remember when the mall was being built. The property was near an old house Granny swore up and down was owned by witches and she threatened to drop me off there if I misbehaved.
My biggest question was how she was privy to this information. The old gal never said.
Once the mall opened, it became mine and Mama’s weekly go-to, either to get something to eat or shopping for makeup, clothes, and books.
We saw movies at the two theaters – one inside and another outside in its own building. For whatever reason, I always liked the outside one the best, maybe because that’s where I made Mama take me to see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure twice to confirm Keanu Reeves was my soulmate and not Prince.
Kenny Rogers could be spotted standing in line at the outside theater on occasion, making his fans squeal with delight. While some wanted an autograph, I just wanted my popcorn and peanut M&M’s.
I spent tons and tons of money in the two bookstores, getting stacks of books to read over the summer. I’d read them in days and we’d be back the following week, to get me another stack.
“The library’s free,” Mama reminded me.
“I know, but there’s some books you don’t want to return.”
Granny brought me pretty plus britches at Sears and then complained about the price of the cookies at the cookie shop. She was also standing there fussing about the cost of the Dinky Doozies when she heard my bloodcurdling wails from Claire’s as I got my second ear piercing. Something I had lied about, telling her Mama was fine with it, until Mama saw my ears a few weeks later and we both caught the Crazy Redhead’s fury.
Reeboks, Sebagos, Guess jeans, and parachute pants were all found at Georgia Square.
The Pizza Hut at the mall was where I finally went to lunch after church with my crush, even though it was just as friends and I was too nervous to eat.
The Peanut Shack was what my Pop declared Heaven on earth with its decadent fudge and confections.
I worked inventory at Macy’s one summer, and when they asked me if I wanted a job, I told them not if it involved counting underwear in the attic again.
We spent so much at the Lancome counter at Belk that the counter manager, Fran, sent me gifts when I graduated high school and college, and was invited to my first wedding. Even when I worked for Clinique at a specialty store, going to Belk to see Fran was still a tradition.
After I moved away, Mama tried going to the mall with Granny but it just wasn’t the same. Granny didn’t want to walk, so she’d get something to drink and sit on a bench. She told me later my Mama was pitiful as she ran back to the bench, practically in tears as she couldn’t shop without me beside her screaming our battle cry of “Charge it!” like Betty and Wilma.
It was the first mall I took Cole to as a baby, and one we’d visit often when going home.
Like so many other things, it’s going away, evolving from its former glory into something totally different. A sign of the current times and a progress that I’m just not quite sure of.
To some, it may just be a building, just a mall, but to me it is so much more. It’s a place where so many memories were made.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.