Astronaut Dreams

Many years ago, when I was in undergrad, a layover in Minneapolis for a flight from Indianapolis to Kalispell turned from 2 hours into 36 hours. This was upsetting not only for the obvious reasons, but also because I was meant to be hiking in the Rocky Mountains with my family. But, alone time is always a welcome respite, and I was excited for a whole day to explore a new city! This was in the time before smartphones were ubiquitous, and while my trusty Palm (still heartbroken that these no longer happen) would let me draw on pictures and send email, it was not the yelp-toting, google-mapping device of Today. Out of preference, history, and necessity, I was reliant upon local knowledge to while away the hours.

The airport attendee, the cabbie, the hotel desk clerk, and the restaurant server all told me to go to the same place: The Mall of America. While skeptical, my sample size was as large as I could muster given my resources, and so I set forth. And it is indeed an experience. Over 500 stores. 40 million visitors a year. Aquarium in the basement and a roller coaster on site. And when I saw the Mall of America souvenir shop in the Mall of America, my brain kind of died a little.

And then I found the LEGO store. My first LEGO store. And all the blocks were perfectly sorted into separate bins, and there were giant LEGO dinosaurs, and the employees looked like ex-engineers who were either the luckiest or the most degraded to be wearing the LEGO apron. And then. Then I saw the most amazing shirt I’ve ever seen in my life. It was the astronaut LEGO torso. And sure, it was a kid’s size, but I was running and lifting a lot at the time, so I was fairly svelte. I looked at it, and I looked at myself. I hailed one of the mustached employees.


“I’d like to try that on. Think it’ll work?”

He eyed me over. “It says ‘6+’¬†(meaning age) You’re more on the plus side of that, but sure, it could work.”

“Have a changing room?” I asked.

He looked around the glass-brick semblance of store walls. “It’s a LEGO store.”


I pulled my soul-mate shirt on over my tank top. It fit – but was pushing it, my belly button attempting an awkward Peeping Tom lurk from the bottom, my retina-distroying haunches indecently exposed over the low-rise pants so prevalent Back In The Day. Sadly, the glory of the shirt and I were not meant to be. The saddest of faces. I would have to go distract myself from my grief by vindictively laughing at the fish in the aquarium, my third time through that day. I’m terrified of fish, and eating and viewing them is the highest form of victory for me.

Then I tried to take the glorious shirt off. I have some fairly hefty shoulders as it is, but I’m also prone to absurd muscle mass when instigated, and as I say, I was in the practice of light lifting at the time. The nylon panels of the front and back did not stretch. And the elastic bands at the sides were at their limits. I blushed fiercely as I tried, first solo, and then with the disgruntled engineer, to move the beautiful article of clothing past my mass.

Eventually, we won out. Hung the shirt back on its hanger, stretched and warped. We contemplated it together.

I’m totally willing to pay for that.


Want to grab a drink, now that you’ve gotten me out of my shirt? I think there’s a bar on the third floor.

No, but thanks.

And that’s the story of the day I was at the Mall of America.

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