On Thursday I toasted my mom with a Burnsville Center food court Philly.
We grew up roaming the Burnsville Center, long before the advent of online shopping and Amazon Prime.
The mall wasn’t just a place we shopped. We wandered it in packs of friends as we searched for products that would bring us peer acceptance and spaghetti strap tank tops. Of course, I had to wear my tanks over a white tee-shirt (at least, when my parents weren’t looking)
Things meant more back when I was growing up in the 90’s. I’d blow my babysitting money on a plain white shirt because it said Guess. Now, I’m happiest rotating between my two favorite t-shirts. We 90’s kids smelled like a Country Apples, Cucumber Melons, Freesia or Sweet Peas at any given time. These gateway scents led to Victoria’s Secret, to our parent’s dismay, and eventually Clinique Happy. And we probably always glittered.
We prowled for boys at the mall and met them for movies back when a theater was inside the mall. We asked each other out through friends and broke up by handwritten notes. “Going out” meant going wherever our parents were willing to drop us off and pick us up. It involved making a show of awkwardly hugging each other in the school hallways and pairing up for the square dance unit in gym class. And God forbid, if you mixed up a meeting time or place, you had to call your friend’s home phone from a mall pay phone.
90’s kids also liked froyo, but we didn’t have fancy, self-serve yogurt bars like Cherryberry. We got ours from Dayton’s, long before it became Marshall Fields and before it became a Macy’s.
Strolling through the Burnsville Mall brought back memories of my family: Mother-daughter shopping trips, back to school shopping and Christmas and birthday present shopping. We used to pick up my grandma up from Ebeneezer Ridges and stroll around the mall, always treating ourselves to soft pretzels. When my mom was in the last stages of hospice, we were known to spontaneously forgo a casserole and eat together in the food court.
Mom always chose a cheesesteak from that place near the corner. I was tickled to find that it’s still there last week when I stopped for lunch on the way to an appointment. The Philly Steak Grill’s name and ownership may have changed since 2008, but the sandwich tasted the same and it’s still called a “Philly Bomb.”
The bread’s a little squishy and I wouldn’t know how it compares to a real Philly cheesesteak. Nevertheless, it sure tasted like I remembered, which is not to say “authentic’ or “perfect.” That’s not what I was looking for, anyway.
These days, the Burnsville Center seems a little quieter. Kay Bee Toys is long gone, along with Mervyn’s California and the Chinese buffet. I’m not longer interested in collecting cheap jewelry in a mesh basket at Claire’s and there ain’t nobody to lecture me about avoiding the back aisles of Spencer’s Gifts anymore.
It’s funny how places and food can awaken so many memories. I enjoyed a quiet moment of reflection with my cheesesteak in the mall’s food court. For my mom’s sake, I hope there are mall cheesesteaks in heaven.