• Carmen Milligan

Everything has an expiration date

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

I, for one, take expiration dates as more of a suggestion than a hard-set-date. When I think of expiration dates, I immediately think of food, because 99% of food stuffs has an expiration date. I am loathe to waste or throw out food, so I try to save as much as I can, or push those date boundaries, if possible.

However, when I opened my latest "Reminisce" magazine, I noted the cover story is "Department Stores: When Retail Ruled". That got me to thinking about my teenage years asking to go to and meeting friends at the mall, my college years of working in a clothing store in the mall, and my adult years of dreading the crowds during holidays at the mall. Retail really did rule. Convenience was king, and department stores were the beginning of this retail heaven. They had everything you needed except groceries. You could even buy all the furniture you needed.

I can imagine that going shopping in multi-level department stores in the heyday of retail was quite an event. You got dressed up, planned to be gone most of the day, and more than likely ate lunch out. It was probably a real treat, and more than likely a family affair. Dad drove, with his hat resting in the middle of the long bench seat in front. Mom chattered on about items on the shopping list. The kids in the back (one boy and one girl, of course), looked out the window, and occasionally bickered. There were elevators with elevator attendants, announcing each floor, and the goods that were sold. "Third floor: women's dresses, hats, and shoes".

And then the malls were built, becoming social beacons for teens everywhere, and hit another heyday in shopping convenience. Remember when your mom dropped you off at the mall on Saturday, and you stayed pretty much all day? Stores became more specialized, exponentially increasing selection, availability, and experience.

But, alas. There are now videos dedicated to showing abandoned shopping malls. Dark and empty stores, lone clothing fixtures, chairs, stools, and plants, all sitting unused and forgotten. Sometimes there is a leak, with the damage from that. It's all very sad, especially for those of us who lived during the prime time of shopping malls.

Now, buying is more and more online, and there is no real feeling of retail. It feels more like straight consumerism. We're not interacting, touching, smelling, or trying on. Many times, we make a decision based on reviews from people we've never met, in locales we'll never see. "Brick and mortar" stores are increasingly at risk, and local businesses need local support like never before.

I never thought, during those young adult years, that something that seemed so solid and longstanding as the way we purchase would have an expiration date.

But everything has an expiration date, doesn't it? It's practically a life truth. Some things we miss as the expiration date comes due. Some things leave a hole in our heart. Other things pass right by us, unnoticed as it drifts into nothingness. Some expired things we toss in the garbage, others we place a headstone at the top and visit out of respect.

Department stores were such a vibrant and exciting experience. For a time. Isn't most of life like that? It makes me want to get dressed up, put on gloves, red lipstick, and a pillbox hat, and pay homage to the past, revel in the present, and thumb my nose at the future. Because it will all be past its "recommended usage by" date before we know it.

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