Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The End of an Era

I cried today when I learned a local grocery store was closing.

Literally.

Cried.

Tears streaming down my face crying.

I don't do that.

I'm not that type of girl.

Honestly, crying is not something I do very often. I'm not an emotional person- not unless animals or children are involved...or it's a Hallmark Christmas movie...but in general I don't cry.

So you're probably thinking why on earth would the closure of a grocery store reduce this stoic anti-emotional woman to tears? 

Hormones? Stress?

Neither.

And I'm not the only one crying about this store closing, but my reasons are much different than most. I'll get to them in a moment.

Many are upset because this store is in a central location of many low income districts/neighborhoods, it is on the bus route so people can easily get there if they don't have other transportation. 

And the only other grocery store in the immediate area closed several months ago.

But that's not why I am upset. I am lucky, I can drive to whatever store I want or need to go to even if it's not as close as this one.

I am upset because this store has been a huge part of my life.

Meijer is the main grocery store I shopped at for the first couple decades of my life, long before there was a Walmart in the area. 

I can remember weekly shopping trips with my mom for groceries. She always bought me a book. When I was little, the books were usually Little Golden Books. Then I moved up to the middle grade books. I can remember scouring the shelves and painstakingly trying to decide which book to get. Later I can remember going through my Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High phase. I think I had almost the entire series...up to the point when I stopped reading them and moved on to more adult books. 

I bought my first record at Meijer (OK my mom bought me my first record at Meijer). It was a purple 45 of Purple Rain by Prince. I also got Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet album there. I bought my first cassette tape and my first CD at Meijer. Most of my children's birthday cakes have been bought at Meijer.

In high school and college most of my friends worked at Meijer at some point. I worked at Kroger, the other store that recently closed on Pierson Rd.

I think I cried today because it symbolizes and end. And end to an era. 

When they demolish that store it may be the straw that broke the camel's back...the last straw.

I have held on to my life here in Flint even when everything around me has crumbled. 

The area I live in has went downhill. The school district turned to absolute crap. The jobs gone. But I held on. Why? 

Because my roots are here. I live on land that has been in family since the 1940s. My mother grew up here. My parents lived here built a house here. I live in the house my grandfather built. I grew up in the house next door, the one my parents had built on the piece of land my gardnfather gave them as a wedding present. I moved inot this house when I was 18 and officially became the owner when I inherited it after my grandmother passed away.

My family's blood, sweat and tears is in the ground here. It's in the wood of this house. Every inch of this land, of these homes, contains the story of my life. The history of my family.

My history is all here.

But Flint is dying. No matter what the few that try to breathe new life into this decaying town do, it's not enough. Thanks to GM pulling out of here steadily since the 80s this town has slid into despair. Jobs gone, businesses closed, people leaving by the thousands.

Many try to revive it, downtown Flint has seen a healthy rebirth in the arts scene and new businesses have opened. The colleges have done a lot for the downtown area. But if you drive in any direction off the main drag, it's still dead and dying.

Everywhere you go in Flint there are boarded up houses and empty businesses. Ghost towns. Dead neighborhoods. Some may have one house that someone resides in. The rest are boarded up, falling down, burned out shells or they've already been demolished.

I've held on for so long. Held on when many turned tail and ran from this place. Even when my husband wanted to drag me south to his homeland. I have stayed. Stayed and watched the things from my childhood disappear, fall in to ruin, decay or be demolished. Cornfields are now parking lots. The orchards are empty or only have a few skeletal trees remaining that no longer bear fruit.

I have worked hard to be true to Flint. I promote and attend all the events that I can. I write about the area, put local models on my book covers, but does it really matter? Flint still descends into darkness.

No amount of festivals, events, or walks is going to save this place. 

The fact that people still care enough to plan and attend these events is fabulous but I'm beginning to wonder if it is all just a band-aid holding together a mortal wound.

Nothing short of a miracle will have a Lazarus effect on Flint. It would take a huge company or several huge companies to bring jobs to this area. Jobs equivalent of what we had back in the 70s when all the auto factories were still running full steam ahead along with all the small factories and companies that supplied parts for them or were simply successful because they were near a factory.

But I don't see that happening anytime soon, if ever.

I would love to see Flint reborn, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, it would once again be a good place to live.

But I don't think I have it in me to stick around and hope that will happen. 

And even if it did, the new Flint wouldn't be my Flint. It wouldn't be Windmill Place, Auto World, Ice Skating downtown or my Meijer.

It would be something different.

People often lament about how "you can't go home".

But I suddenly feel like "you can't stay home."

Perhaps it really is time for me to find a new place to call home.

3 comments:

Roxanne Rhoads said...

It is hard to watch something you love die, especially when you can't do anything about it. Eventually you just have to let it go.

Chad Bentoski said...

I don't see a choice. Flint is where love is needed most. When I look at our poor, run down city I don't see despair. I see HOPE. It is the KEY. I believe that what happens in Flint matters to the whole world. I believe we are trend setters we always have been, ahead if the curb. We will never return to the 'old glory' of he hey days, but the real question is, do we really want the old glory back? Was it really that glorious being decadent as we were? No, what I see is a chance to become something better. A place that champions the human causes and respect one another. A chance to come together as a community like never before. A chance to actually make this the utopian community that it was I tended to be. Make no mistake. You can't run from Flint, what happens here, eventually happens to the rest of the world. We are trend setters. We always have been. Change Flint and change the world.
~Chad

Roxanne Rhoads said...

I just don't think I have it in me anymore. I'm tired of it all. I've been fighting my entire life trying to survive in this place. The last straw should have been when a man broke into my house and pointed a gun at me but I stayed on even after that. But the crime, the lack of jobs and opportunity...I can't win a losing battle and I have kids to think about it. They don't need to fight to survive like this.