Rachel Bell: An open letter to Salisbury

Published 9:23 am Sunday, February 28, 2016

By Rachel Bell

Special to the Salisbury Post

Good ole Smallsbury. The 704. RoCo.

Home to Hap’s Grill, Cheerwine, my immediate family, my high school alma mater. Home to the hospital no one wants to be sent to and the little towns everyone complains about.

You’ve got Salisbury, right, but then there’s all those little towns and areas within Rowan County: Rockwell, Faith, Granite Quarry, Mount Ulla, Spencer, China Grove, Landis, Woodleaf, Cleveland, Gold Hill, Pooletown — you get the point. But when someone asks “where are you from?” Salisbury is the answer. Salisbury is a small town but seriously, can you imagine the look you’d get if you told someone you were from Pooletown? That’s worse than saying you hate the Panthers.

Anyways, Dear Ole Salisbury,

You were my first love. It was your roads that I tore up when I got my license. It was your Cook Out that became the hangout spot on weekend nights. It was your sunsets that showed me the wonders of God’s creation. It was your school system that molded me into the college student I am today.

It was easy to complain about your “lack of amenities” while I was a resident. But now that I have ventured beyond the county lines, I want nothing more than to come back.

Your movie theater always seemed a little too crowded and I resented the fact I always seemed to run into a familiar face at Walmart. Now that I am learning my way around a different Walmart, I long to run into someone who can steer me in the right direction.

I can’t drive five minutes down the road and devour my mamaw’s cooking. I can’t roll the windows down and cruise over the Tamarac Bridge. I can’t take my parents’ dinner at work. I can’t even cook things beyond the limitations of a microwave, being in a college dorm.

I knew growing up and moving on would have its challenges, but I never thought I would crave to be back home like I do now. It is easy to wish for a way out — to criticize the things Salisbury lacks. But what about all it has to offer? The familiarity, the homeyness, the availability of Sundrop Slushies.

I miss knowing my way around. I resent having to use a GPS every time I venture off campus. I knew I needed to get out and spread my wings, but it hasn’t been all it was cracked up to be. It’s a mean world. Not everyone is gonna have small-town Southern charm. Not everyone is going to know the beauty of Salisbury, N.C. But I sure do.

I know that there’s a drive-thru gas station that serves you out the window. I know that on most mornings you can speed through downtown because all of the law enforcement officers are grabbing breakfast at Chick-fil-A or Bojangles. I know that you don’t want to miss a high school football game, especially if it’s between two teams within Rowan County. I know that the Faith Fair comes to town the week around the 4th of July. I know that Goat Island is the go-to spot on the lake. I know that Buddy’s Tavern hosts karaoke on Thursday nights. I know that Gravity Hill is a wicked place from experience, not because I read it online. I know where to head when the snow starts falling and where to go when the weather gets warm. I know that people are ridiculed for “staying home” and going to community college. But most of the time, I’d change places with them in a heartbeat.

I like knowing I can walk into Marshall’s and find something. I like knowing the owners of the local produce farms — everyone loves discounted strawberries. I like knowing the local firemen and having a church to go to on Sundays.

It was here that I tried every sport in the book, learned to drive, had my first date and my first heart break.

I hated you while I was there. I craved trips to the beach just to “be out of Rowan County” for a few days. The Lord only knows what I would do to go back.

Every time I drive across the county line I think of Brantley Gilbert’s song, “More Than Miles.” I don’t just leave familiar roads; I leave my security blanket. I leave loving grandparents and a shower with good water pressure. I leave the smell of the lake. I leave behind omelets at Jimmy’s restaurant. Salisbury is where I found Jesus. Salisbury is where I made friendships and drank my first beer. (Sorry, family, but it had to happen somewhere.)

Salisbury has been on the map for centuries. I am happy to say that I am a part of its story. No matter where I go, it will always be my home. If it was up to me, I would’ve never left. But there are other places that need me. I have to support other Cook Outs and movie theaters. I have to find new people to vibe with and thrive off of. I have to do things to make my family and my hometown proud.

Hey Salisbury, just know every time I leave — I will return. I know the better I do, the faster I can return. Every time I pull out of my driveway, it’s not a goodbye — it’s a see you soon.

Rachel Bell is a student at Western Carolina University. This originally appeared as a post on her blog, Socks and Crocs, socksandcrocs.wordpress.com.