This past week I learned the doors to Grainger Performing Arts Center would finally be closing. Though I had heard this for years, I never actually believed the doors to one of Kinston’s finest establishments would be closing. I chalked them up to rumors, instead. Grainger could never leave. Where would our community host dance recitals, musical performances, theatrical performances, or community events? When I read the newspaper article about its final closing, my heart sank.
Since I was a little girl, I have loved Grainger. I have loved its stage, its spiral staircases that I would constantly fall down, the dressing rooms, the audience seating, and just the overall atmosphere. It became a place where I felt safe and a place that I considered a home away from home. I began to reminisce on the countless hours I have spent in this wonderful place, the people it allowed me to meet, and the wonderful memories it allowed me to create over the years.
I was three the first time I ever performed on Grainger’s stage. It was my first dance recital and even though I was nervous, I was ready to show the world what I had practiced that year. If not, my mother would have killed me and I would not have had the surprises she bought me as a bribe to smile and dance just like she (and Robb) had taught me to do.
I remember sitting in the audience the night before the recital watching the “big girls” practice their numbers and looking at Grainger’s massive stage, basking in its glory, but mostly thinking to myself, “Wow, that is big.” I was nervous until I heard the click my tap shoe made with the stage floor. In that moment, I was instantly hooked and knew I had found a place where I could be myself and further my love of theatrics. After that, it was like you could not tear me away from Grainger. I danced on that stage for fifteen years.
What I realized is that I not only was furthering my love of dancing with each recital, but I was also furthering my love of the place where I could showcase my talents. If I was not dancing on the stage, I was participating in summer theatre programs, Moppets, participating in Junior Miss pageants, Miss Neuse pageants, and other activities.
The few times I was not performing on the stage in some way, I found myself sitting in the audiences many numerous Saturday nights watching other girls perform and find themselves on that stage. I would sit for hours talking to friends about future ambitions, dreams, and goals while waiting for my time on stage. Many homework assignments were also completed on those late rehearsal nights to pass the time.
I spent hours running up those steps to make my number in time and I cannot even begin to count how many times I had to change backstage in order to get on the stage before my next song came on. Not only did I run up those steps, but often times I fell down those steps. I have prom pictures to prove the massive bruises I received from the slide I took down the spiral staircase of my final recital. Each room within Grainger holds a special place in my heart.
I am forever grateful to the place that taught me how to be myself, how to love myself, and helped me grow. My experiences are ones that I will always value.
The last toes have been tapped on Grainger’s stage, the last song has been sung, and the last beauty pageant has been watched. It is heartbreaking to see Grainger close, yet we are left with the memories and friendships made, which lessens the heartache. There will never be another Grainger, so for the last time...farewell Grainger. You will be forever missed.
“Moving on is simple, it’s what we leave behind that’s hard.”