White People Losses

My sister and I just had one of our not infrequent mourning sessions for Borders. How DARE they go out of business?!?! How could they DO this to us? Didn’t they know how important they were to us and millions of others? Why did they have to expand so quickly, mismanage the growth and flame out? Could we have stopped it by buying even MORE books?

We had a routine that was completely ruined when Borders closed. We would each drive about 25 minutes, meet for lunch at TGI Fridays (pecan crusted chicken), solve the world’s problems and our own and then walk across the street to wile away the afternoon at Borders. We browsed, we read, we got a cup of cappuccino, we traded reviews of new fiction or went our separate ways into the music or gift sections. When they went out of business we had to find a whole new place for lunch. It was too sad looking at the empty building.

I did not grow up in Detroit, but I have heard many similar stories about the flagship JL Hudson store downtown on Woodward. Families would make a day of it, taking a bus downtown, little girls in crinolines and white gloves, having lunch in the Hudson restaurant and shopping and sightseeing. For those of us growing up in other parts of Michigan our hallowed department store was called Jacobson’s. I longed for clothes from there as a girl (our budget was more in the Sears column), I worked there a few summers and Christmas vacations in college and I shopped there as much as possible when I got a real job with a real paycheck. I will never forget the time I needed a fast gift for my husband’s niece—a girl I had never connected with despite my best efforts. I called the Miss J shop, gave them her age and address and my price range and said “Pick whatever you think might work. Wrap it, send it and charge my credit card.” I still don’t know what they sent, but it was the only time I ever got a thank you note from this kid. I miss Jacobson’s with heartfelt longing.

I can already see the eye roll when my 15 year-old reads this. Missing upscale retail establishments of yore would be the ultimate in what she calls White People Problems (as in “Oh no! I burned the kale quinoa casserole!!”) but it still makes me sad and that’s my right. My mom’s favorite saying was “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” Whenever I felt I was over the top in whining to my therapist I would quote my mom as an example of how I just needed to buck up. Her response was always—but you still didn’t have any shoes!! In other words, our losses are our losses no matter what anyone else thinks about how worthy they are of sorrow. If Naomi can melt down over fuse beads, I can mourn Borders and Tom and the fact that I no longer have a pre-schooler to pick up and take to the park for a picnic. Change is hard and it is ok to take time to remember what we used to have and feel sad.

So if you are reading this and are mourning anything you’ve been afraid to admit—go ahead. Tell us! (I’ll send over some burned casserole to cheer you up.)


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