Running Down the Past

Posted in Running at 7:05 am by Marion

Originally posted 28 November 2007

An interview took me to Rocky Mount, N.C., yesterday, about an hour from here — my hometown.

I felt myself step backward as soon as I took the Church Street exit and drove down that street, where the first Hardee’s restaurant once stood, the restaurant we visited for hamburgers and fries after church on rare occasions.

My interview took place in the old People’s Bank building which has been remarkably restored. It was crumbling for decades, but now has been replastered and painted, and is in use.

I walked up the five flights of stairs, the gray granite I remembered so well from my childhood when, in the late 1960s, I would visit my grandfather’s insurance office in that same building.

My interview completed, I visited the cavernous lobby. There was the large safe; the tall two-story ceiling, the windowed area where the teller counters once stood.

After the interview, I stopped in a restaurant near City Lake to change into running shoes and went for a tour-de-old-haunts.

I ran around the lake, saw the ducks and thought of the times Billie Thompson, a dear, late, family friend, took me there, starting when I was 3 years old. Once I waded in and she was furious!

I ran through West Haven, saw the lovely old houses, many of them washed away by the ’99 flood. I wound my way to Edwards Junior High, where I attended eighth grade. Not a bad year, but I enjoyed seeing the school robbed of its power over me, to stand in line, ask for permission to go to the bathroom, eat and leave by others’ schedules.

When I returned to City Lake, I had other feelings, some sadness for classmates who have passed, or whose troubles I’ve heard of. I also felt whole in an unexpected way, seeing my hometown’s natural beauty, the heritage trees, well-maintained yards and businesses that go on no matter what.

It was a treasured interlude to my so-called grown-up life in Greenville and all that means — e-mail and text messages, responsibilities, my sometimes inflated sense of importance.

Running through those streets I felt myself just a wide-eyed girl again.

From Gene-O:
A bittersweet idyll and remembrance of things past. Reading this short, beautifully written personal essay has given a great start to my day.

From Marion:

I looked out from that building and saw the aqua-colored water tower standing 500 feet from our old apartment … I used to think of it as an Eiffel Tower. The memories were powerful yesterday but in a way that felt very grounding.

TOMORROW: Figuratively Speaking Friday.
Tech Thursday returns Oct. 9.

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