My heart is in Rocky Mount


Patsy Pridgen



Sunday, February 3, 2019

Braswell Memorial Library called. A book I requested is in, being held for me to pick up. I’ll go today, I decide. I need a trip to downtown Rocky Mount.

I need a trip downtown to calm and reassure myself after a second Monday afternoon spent observing a City Council meeting about the city manager debacle. This time, the public was allowed to speak — following a two-hour closed session and the reading of prepared statements by both the mayor and mayor pro-tem announcing further study of the problem with no immediate resolution. A lot of what the public had to say wasn’t pretty, highlighting a racial division I’d hoped had been put behind us and a downtown that’s lost its revitalization momentum. I left drained and disheartened.

So today I’ll visit Braswell library, a modern downtown facility any city could be proud of. When I leave, I’ll drive by the Imperial Centre, another impressive structure, which rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Hurricane Floyd. Just the other week, I took my Charlotte grandchildren there for a visit to the children’s museum. Finding it was temporarily closed as exhibits were being changed, we instead prowled around the art museum. The boys discovered a Lego table, clipboards with paper and pencils for doodling and interactive wall screens. I happened upon a wonderful collection of Charles Killebrew photographs depicting Rocky Mount in days of yore.

Today I’ll go over to the Douglas Block, park my car and walk around. I could pop in the Bath Place, a specialty store selling those bath bombs my granddaughter is so crazy about. A few years ago, I attended her birthday party at the Bath Place, where she and a gaggle of girls, under the direction of the store’s owner, made their own soaps. I remember taking my restless toddler grandson outside and walking him up and down the sidewalk, passing the ornate front of the Booker T. Washington Theater and the Prime Smokehouse, where I’ve enjoyed beef brisket, award-winning macaroni and cheese and whole-kernel cornbread.

I haven’t been to the annual Bulluck Furniture Warehouse sale yet, located in an old downtown tobacco warehouse, and if they’re open, today may be the time to stop in. It’s safe to say every room in my house has at least one item, a lamp or knickknack, from previous sales. I always find something unique. I’ll drive home by Rocky Mount Mills, and as I do every time I pass, marvel at its transformation into small local breweries and eateries as well as offices. When my adult children visit from Charlotte, this is an area I’m proud to show them.

I’m retired and could easily go live in a house at the beach and gaze at the ocean every day. But my heart isn’t completely there. I don’t hear the call of the sea but the whistle of a train rolling down the tracks in a city called Rocky Mount, a city I’ve known and loved all my life. I plan to stay put and hope for better days.

Check out Patsy Pridgen’s blog at www.patsypridgen.com.