Tom and I have a special sentimental place in our hearts for Sears, the American store that has been in business for so long. We both grew up with our moms shopping there. My earliest memories of a department store were at the Sears off Fond du Lac in Milwaukee. We entered the store from the back where the first thing you saw and the first thing you experienced was the sight and aroma of the nut, candy and popcorn in the glass cases. My mom would sometimes get us a small paper bag with red stripes of Spanish peanuts, still warm from the lights in the glass case.
The neighborhood was deteriorating quickly around that store that had been in business for so long. It eventually closed, and we started going to the store at the Brookfield Square Mall when I was around 12 or so. From then on, that store was a part of my life. (And Tom’s life as well, unbenownst to me at the time.) Those walls saw me grow up, saw me expecting my first baby. Charlie’s crib was purchased there in the baby department that was by the escalator. Then I shopped there with two little boys (after Sam came along) who wore their Toughskins jeans. I bought many little blue suits and white dress shirts and ties there for Charlie and Sammy, always one size apart. School shoes, school clothes and winter coats, all of it at Sears. Then along came Will years later. Another crib purchased, and then Mary came. Little girls clothes! Easter dresses, Christmas dresses! Ah. Then Jonathan. We bought his first dress clothes there two days after he arrived from Bulgaria. It was Mother’s Day Sunday the next day, and I have photos of us at Sears with his interpreter who flew him here helping us out. An exciting and wonderful day that was! All at Sears.
Then Emmy. The night we found out Emmy was on the way we had wandered through Sears and there was Christmas music on the loudspeakers. We passed through the baby department and I admired the Christmas dresses, for some reason, I was unusually teary eyed and sentimental. There was a reason for that. Our little girl was on the way, and Sears was the backdrop for the news shortly thereafter.
It is sad to see the decline of Sears in recent years. Tom and I still shop there when we can. We have said often that we hope our Sears at Brookfield Square Mall doesn’t go out of business. When it does, we will take it personally. There is one portion of the outside of the store on the backside that has escaped change. We frequently comment that it’s comforting to have one small bit of continuity from the past.
So today when I spotted this piece in the Chicago Tribune, it really touched my heart. The author of it, who rose above his difficult childhood in such an amazing way, pays tribute to the Sears store that made such a difference in his life. Of course, it was the people there. But somehow you don’t forget the back drop, the scene, and in his case, he has special reason for that. Thank God for kind people. One kind person can have an impact. Several kind people at once can have a special kind of impact. A good thing to remember.
(The author of the piece in the Chicago Tribune is Douglas MacKinnon, former White House and Pentagon official and author of the memoir “Rolling Pennies in the Dark”.) Alto a thank-you to the wonderful Facebook page, Pleasant Family Shopping, for posting this where I saw it. That page is a lot of sentimental fun from the past. “Like” it if you have a chance.