The Closing of the Past


The other day I walked with my six year old son Elias through the Sears, moving through one empty department of the closing store after another. Sears Roebuck, another victim perhaps of the Covid-19 epidemic that decimated not only people’s lives and families, but the world economy, too. It’s made many people wealthy beyond their dreams, of course, but sent far more into bankruptcy.

But this isn’t about the economic impact of the pandemic. It is simply about the closing of the Sears at the Solomon Pond Mall in Marlboro, Massachusetts.

I used to work down the road from this place, this mall, at the company which has employed me these past twenty-four years. Perhaps because my time there is coming to an end (that story coming soon), a quiet melancholy has been running under this otherwise exciting time in my life. My personal, past, trauma is nothing compared to so many others, but when your life is going one way then the walls crack and everything you thought was truth and reality disintegrates, it does leave scars. For me, since this is all metaphor, those scars are emotional.

Such landmarks in western society, and literal tent stakes of my past life since I probably bought tent stakes there once upon a time, are suddenly gone, it makes me sad. It makes me drift back to so many, many Christmas seasons when, after work or during lunch, I would begin my “zen shopping” experience of walking from one end of the mall to the other and look, consider, check my list, and waste money – sorry, I mean buy Christmas gifts (yet another future blog entry idea).

To be honest, I enjoyed it. Relaxing, moving through stores and shopping is. Sometimes, I would stop and look at something interesting, forget all else, just see. We – and I – do that far too infrequently in these days of Ten Things click bait articles and google “news”.

When I began working in Marlboro, my third child, Audrey had been born and my then wife and I had moved the family from Worcester to more rural Princeton, northwest of the city. So the years before with the joys of Andrew and Amanda’s arrival, learning times and emotional highs, terrible prior jobs and new records set for hurt. Life, in other words, in all its messy glory. And the hurts would slowly escalate, far exceeding even the looking-through-the-basement-window kind, all while working in Marlboro, sound-tracked by its Muzac or the Border Books overhead actual music in the plaza next door.

God spoke to me directly in those years, when everything had come crashing down, in the Best Buy’s CD section in the plaza beside that one.

I bought a grill at this Sears once, and my neglected weight bench, and I think we bought a washer / dryer too, but time is a trickster and I might be wrong on that last one. I’ve brought the kids to go shopping for their mother, and more recently my former foster daughter as well. I remember that for some reason, thinking of Sears. I remember talking to the sales woman when we were or weren’t getting a washing machine. Seem to remember she was having some issues in life. But again, trickster time and all that.

Department stores supply our lives with the stuff we fill it with, and until they leave us, usually forever, we don’t truly understand how much of ourselves has soaked into their walls. Big or small. From the original Towne Grocery or Hobby Shoppe in my childhood home (very white, as you can tell from all those extra E’s), to Almy’s and The Fair and Spag’s department stores, to Sears and Caldors and Service Merchandise with its carousel system. So many Christmases, so many birthdays. So many hours spent building my life, celebrating and spending time with people we love, or drowning our sorrows in their food courts, or searching frantically for their hidden restrooms to change the baby’s diaper.

We will always have these places as a hidden secret part of us and our personal memories, even as new generations shrug their shoulders at their names and think of Sears as I do my parents IGA. But future lives will be built by their own places, hopefully brick and mortar ones which will also someday be gone, taking with them a trace of every soul who came to visit.


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