Cross County version 2.0 has been met with what I can only see as praise, ingenuity and revitalization as the place that feels like an alma mater to me, the place that experienced steep decline in the 1990s and the place where the suburban shopping center experience was born is now teeming with life; not only of the human variety, but that of the new animals that call the shopping center home.
With overflowing nostalgia and devotion, my youth was forever branded with images of the great stone Rams and Lions that donned the promenade of the mall.
Jumping, playing, running up to and hugging these life-like stone structures, it gave me great joy and I think gave my parents joy as well, being able to watch their son befriend and take pleasure in a piece of civic artistry, the likes of which would never be seen again at the shopping center.
Children in the 21st Century can now be seen befriending new animals at the mall and making life-long memories and connections to a place that will hopefully always serve as a center for shopping, recreation and an overall democratic public space.
Forgetting the past for a moment, I took time the other day to embrace and appreciate the new animals of cross county and discovered similar children just like myself, reveling in the fantasy and splendor of the malls permanent residents.
Come with me and allow me to introduce you to a few of them now…
Say hello to Jermaine the Giraffe. His African roots have brought him to the New York City area, along with his friends and while he has to get used to some snowy days in the winter time, he surely doesn’t mind all of the little friends he makes each day, receiving countless hugs and climbers, all of which are welcome to prop themselves up on his tall head and enjoy a Giraffe’s view of the mall. He’s also a bit of a licker so beware because if he gives you a lick, you’ll be drenched from head to toe.
Lincoln the Lion or “link” as his friends at the mall call him, can be a bit of a curmudgeon and sometimes needs the attention and love that the children bring to him each day. He never realized that receiving a hug and kiss from a small child could be so much more rewarding and gratifying than mauling something to death. Despite wishing he was still in the wild, he also enjoys not having to hunt for food each day and figures his retirement is better spent watching over the kids of the mall…maybe contemplating eating some of the unruly ones on only the rarest of occasions…
Gonzo is a weird one but everyone still loves him. He manages to sit in the same position for pretty much the entire day and never seems to move, even though he looks like he would love to jump from store to store and perhaps even around the area, pole vaulting across the New York State Thruway and up Valentine Hill. The other animals and kids like him though because he’s a good listener and always will let the little tuckered out 4 year-old lean up against his big arms and catch a quick nap before heading home.
Speaking of tuckered out 4-year-olds…Tucker is the name of the turtle that you can find nearby and he is pretty much the slowest of the bunch, but that doesn’t stop him from having a good time. No, I mean he literally is the slowest of all the animals, he can barely tell time and even Yonkers Public Schools gave up on him and graduated him early. Still though, his big brown eyes win over the hearts of kids each day and you can find him near his other friends Gonzo and Jermaine, catching some rays and playing one of his favorite games, “how many five year-olds can I fit on my shell?”
Barry and Bob have their own area of the mall and on this day, I was lucky enough to see them playing in some remaining piles of snow, which they of course loved. After making the journey from up north, they seem to be satisfied with the climate here in Yonkers and even more satisfied that they were placed right near the speakers! So no matter what funky beats Cross County plays, they always have a move or two to show off to the kids, or sometimes they imitate what new dances the kids show them. It’s a match made in heaven!
Last but not least, we have Dave and Buster…two “slippery” kind of fellows that seem more interested in eating children than playing with them. Luckily though, their dreams of snatching up their prey are kept under close watch by Link the Lion, who made them sign a “no eating kids” clause in their contract when they agreed to move into the mall. So kids, happy playing on Dave and Buster! Yes kids, jump on them all you want, they can think “it”, but they can’t do “it”.
These guys, along with a few others I did not have time to highlight, serve as ensigns to what has become a revitalized and new and exciting place where people want to be. Here’s to the new memories and friendships that will be made over the next generation of children and here’s to Cross County, for making it happen.