A Magical Trip Back in Time to the Mall in 1978
By Amy Weiland Daughters

An excerpt from You Cannot Mess This Up: A True Story That Never Happened by Amy Weiland Daughters (She Writes Press).

We entered via the east entrance to Foley’s, headlined by a smoky glass, paneled awning   with lighting that gave off a subtle disco effect. Passing through the double set of doors and into he store was like literally being transported to a magical new world, only this fantastic realm was laced with unmistakable déjà vu undertones. I had been here before, but never like this, with hair on my hoo-hoo. Pausing just inside the entrance, Dad cautioned us to stay together while  Mom warned the group that touching anything was a punishable offense. Before I could even exhale the fragrant retail air, the kids lined up behind the parents, and with me in the rear, away we went.

On sensory overload and desperate to stop every couple of steps and absorb everything I  was seeing, I attempted to take mental pictures. If I had a smartphone, even a first-generation iPhone, I would have been taking photos uncontrollably. It was better than being in the best museum in the world, only I couldn’t stop and look at the displays. It was like I was at the Pro Football Hall of Fame with people who considered sports absurd. I got that, I understood it, but it was killing me. Softly. Since in reality I was still an adult, I suppose I could have signaled ahead to Dad and told him that I would catch up later, giving me an opportunity to put on a cashmere beret and twirl around in the couples’ Western Wear section, but that wasn’t going to happen. Somehow, I was scared to do anything but follow. I was still that unsure girl from the South, who would never, ever want to inconvenience the rest of the group, or the rest of the world for that matter. That—other people not getting what I perceived they wanted because of me—would be worse than me not getting what I wanted. It was true even if I didn’t really know what anyone really wanted—myself included.

Crap, I really was screwed up.

The walls were done in a deep bronzy-orange color, with chrome accents and a dizzying array of lighting. Most of it was big naked bulbs with hardly any room between them, the kind of thing you would have seen in a bathroom in the early ’80s, stuff you would want to rip out in the future.

We had come in through one of the women’s fashion departments, snaking our way through dozens of snap-posed mannequins modeling everything from gaucho pants paired with something called a “hooded blouson” (perhaps the son of a regular blouse), to polyester coordinates with shiny-gold translucent  belts and geometric jewelry. One displayed high-waisted, baby blue corduroy “jeans” with gold stretchy belts AND glittering gold cowboy boots. The ensemble was made complete with a matching crewneck sweater and wide-collared shirt.

Though the list of fashion atrocities compounded as we walked on, what really struck me was the number of man-made fabrics, each offered not as an offensive, low-rent alternative to the real thing, but instead as a marvel worth paying extra for. Missing were organic cotton, natural bamboo, Alpaca fleece and boiled wool. In their stead were a list of vile textiles that were worlds away from being sustainably sourced, ethically made or even ten-percent organic. Qiana nylon, acrylic knit, velour, double knit, lustrous-cotton velveteen, satin of acetate—which was, based on price, a step up from satin of polyester—Dacron, Fortrel (Wasn’t that a programming language they taught in business school?), brushed/flocked rayon, Kodel, Orlon, Trevira, Lurex, Super Suede and my personal favorite, rayon chiffon. If that weren’t enough, these unnatural, chemically spawned materials were further treated to become even more useful, and perhaps more dangerous. These magical processes earned the garments additional honors like Wonderfeel, Superwash, Perma-Prest, Flame-Resistant and Easy-Care.

Among the few natural products that I could find, only in passing, were a sweater made from angora rabbit hair and what was advertised as a “natural” fur-collared coat featuring, of all things, opossum. So, while yes, these were sourced from nature, in this case that meant slaughtering and skinning furry friends—not necessarily a practice well thought of back in 2014.

I pulled out my notebook and quickly jotted down, “Man-made fabrics, what’s still available? Have things really gotten greener or has marketing and advertising changed?” Also, Were skin irritations more prevalent in the ’70s?”

Passing through the shoe department, we entered the main arcade of the store. It was glorious, a two-story courtyard with dark-wood paneling, disco lighting and long, orange, and red banners that mirrored the walls we had seen earlier. Two escalators stretched from the main floor to the second level, which featured a wraparound glass balcony with chrome railing.

Then there were the Christmas decorations. On the one hand, they were shiny and oddly colored (again, it was all about oranges and yellows), but on the flip side, there weren’t quite enough of them. The wow factor of late ’70s design was balanced by a different approach to quantity.

Passing through the jewelry department, perfume, and makeup counters, we were in sight of the mall proper. As we approached the edge of the world, where Foley’s met the great beyond, it was obvious that we needed a plan. Mom looked pensive. Sure, we were at the mall,  safe from having to talk directly for too long, but what in the world was next?

“Do you have anything you want to see or shop for specifically, Amy?” Dad asked. “Greenspoint is an incredible shopping mall, it has everything.”

“Yes,” I responded, peering down the passageway leading away from Foley’s. It was a seduction of the senses. The sounds of gentle fountains and waterfalls enticed my ears. Long lines of Ficus trees, draped and then draped again with lights called hither my eyes. As for my nose, it was treated to a scintillating mix of tobacco, chlorine and Brut cologne.


Book Cover of You Cannot Mess This UpAbout the book: It’s 2014 and Amy Daughters is a 46-year old stay-at-home mom living in Dayton, Ohio. She returns to her hometown of Houston over the Thanksgiving holiday to discuss her parents’ estate—and finds herself hurled back in time. Suddenly, it’s 1978, and she is forced to spend 36 hours in her childhood home with her nuclear family, including her 10-year old self. Over the next day and a half, she reconsiders every feeling she’s ever had, discusses current events with dead people, gets overserved at a party with her parents’ friends, and is treated to lunch at the Bonanza Sirloin Pit. Besides noticing that everyone is smoking cigarettes, she’s still jealous of her sister, and there is a serious lack of tampons in the house, Amy also begins to appreciate that memories are malleable, wholly dependent on who is doing the remembering. In viewing her parents as peers and her siblings as detached children, she redefines her difficult relationships with her family members and ultimately realizes that her life story matters and is profoundly significant—not so much to everyone else perhaps, but certainly to her. Amy’s guide said her trip back in time wouldn’t change anything in the future, but by the time her 36 hours are up, she’s convinced that she’ll never be the same again.

About the Author:
Amy Weinland Daughters is a keynote speaker, letter writer, satirist, sports journalist, and the award-winning author of two books: You Cannot Mess This Up: A true story that never happened and Dear Dana: That time I went crazy and wrote all 580 of my Facebook friends a handwritten letter. She is absolutely convinced that when human beings connect individually in a meaningful way that nothing can separate them.


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