Sybil had planned for us to go to the mall. For someone who railed against vanity in all its myriad formulations, Sybil was more than comfortable at the mall. “Stores don’t own this place, y’know. It’s a public meeting place and if we don’t treat it like one then it really won’t be” she once told me. All of the mall security guards knew and generally feared her since, depending on the immediacy of the circumstance, she could actually get Mayor Coppington on speakerphone if need be. She had a particularly special collection of phone #s, begotten mysteriously, that came in handy even with real police.
But for Sybil, taking ownership meant not only graffiti and vagrancy, the two things she said were the cornerstones of any free society, but spending cash too. She had convinced her parents to get store credit cards at at least twelve of the mall’s shops and department stores. Sybil tracked periodic sales and promotions religiously and she shopped like it was an olympic event. Her friends and relatives became accustomed to at least weekly gifts of personal resonance. Only Sybil’s grandmother was ever able to refuse one of Sybil’s thoughtful gifts. In fact, her grandmother turned away all of Sybil’s gifts unless it was a bonafide holiday or maybe her birthday. But with each refusal of a present came always another, each gift more creative and personal than the last.