Thursday, January 10, 2013

Parkwood Mall

I missed yesterday, I know, and it made me sad to put a big black X over the square.

Back in November, the owners of the Wilson Mall in my town announced that they would be closing and demolishing the inside portion to develop it into an open shopping center. Some stores and the theater will stay. The rest of it's going.

I have to admit, I kinda saw this coming. When they updated the mall in 2005, in hopes of attracting businesses, the mall had been on a steady decline for a few years. It was old, mostly empty, and pretty sketchy. People stopped going because the neighborhood isn't great.

But back in the day, it was our mall, and it was pretty cool.

My earliest memories include Santa Claus, the talking Rudolph, the only Chick-fil-A in town then, a pizza place, an arcade, and the Stride Rite, which had Yoshi in the window. I used to think that Parkwood Mall (the old name) was the coolest thing ever because it had a toy store.

In sixth grade, I once hung out with friends there, on a Sunday. We were allowed to walk around by ourselves. That was huge for me. The bookstore, B. Dalton, even had the really cool American Girl books. Sometime soon after that, we got a Bath and Body Works store. The sight of that red checkered awning was pretty awesome, because that was a store that went to bigger malls, not little Parkwood.

When I started reading the Jedi Apprentice book series in seventh grade, I'd always go to B. Dalton in the mall to get the newest one. Books-a-Million never had them. B. Dalton always did.

I bought accesosories at Claire's and eyeshadow at Bath and Body Works (remember the makeup in the silver containers? I loved that stuff.) I had my makeup done once, for fun, at the Clinique counter in Belk's. I even *gasp* used a tanning bed a few times. My first pair of glasses, and my first pair of contacts, came from the Sears in the mall.

An especially vivid memory is one of my birthday parties. A few of my friends had slept over the night before, and the next day, my mom dropped us off at Parkwood (so grownup, right?) to roam a little. We saw a limo parked outside the entrance, and asked the driver who was in it. He answered, with a smirk, Michael Jackson. We rushed inside to see if we could catch a glimpse of someone that famous in our little mall. Obviously, that didn't happen. It still makes me smile. By then, the mall was beginning to look a little worn. We went to one of those sketchy stores down near the arcade, and my friends tried on some trashy clothes (jeans with big cutouts and stuff. It was fun to laugh at.)

The theater held on for a good long while. That was the theater that had three rooms (one very skinny), an old lobby, and sticky floors that you never could quite see. My dad saw Star Wars there, and I'm pretty sure my parents' first date was there. I saw The Fellowship of the Ring, among many others, at Parkwood Theater, and in 2003, went to an R-rated movie for the first time, without an adult present. (The Matrix Revolutions, in case you're wondering.) They tore it down a few years later. I remember this particularly cloudy day, before the building was gone, where the marquee just said "Closed." I'd half-grown up in that theater, and though the one we have now is much newer and much nicer, I was a little sad to see it go. There's a McDonald's there now.

Though the worsening economy, the bad neighborhood (gang activity pushed many customers away), and nearness of Wilson to Raleigh (with its great shopping) probably made the closing of Parkwood Mall inevitable, it is bittersweet. I made memories there, ones that still make me smile, ones that make up my story and shape my life. As bad as the mall got, there at the end, it wasn't always that bad. I believe in this case, what used to be is a perfectly fine thing to reminisce about.

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