Maya and I have been asked often in the past month, “What’s next? Where are you going?” And the truth is we don’t know. We have a handful of concrete plans on the calendar. But we don’t know exactly what the business or our larger life will look like in 6 months or a year. On one hand, that’s terrifying and on the other this is not the first time we have stood in this space. What we can say is that it is also exhilarating. Letting go of what is known or quantifiable, getting quiet, trusting our instincts, trusting our community, trusting our partnership and our individual internal compasses is a bold kind of freedom we have learned to embrace.
I was talking to one of my sons last week about a decision he has been wrestling with and he asked me a question: “What if I’m wrong? What if it turns out to be a disaster?” And my answer was, Maybe it will be. Maybe it will be painful and uncomfortable for a while. But the beauty of this human experience is that our lives are a never-ending series of decisions and each one is based on the information you gathered from all the decisions that came before it. All of the failing and flailing and falling on your face and all of the joyful soaring. Nothing is lost. Nothing is wasted.
We are incredibly proud of what we have created during our time at 28 South Fullerton Avenue. We have gathered a diverse community at this paint-splattered table. We have sparked conversation and curiosity, invited questioning and collaboration. We have filled this room with art and artists, with poets and musicians, professionals and dabblers. We have used our voices to generate change. And we have been forever changed by our time here.
I will dare to paraphrase Winnie the Pooh here and say how lucky we are to have built something so wonderful, to have been connected to a community so brilliant, that it makes saying farewell so bittersweet. As our friend Elly texted us earlier today: Onward!
Walking in and seeing the wallpaper and feeling at home. The opening party. Blank walls and Belgian waffles. Painting the arch a dark shade of pumpkin. Tiny dioramas in the bathroom. The printers tray populated by the remnants of the places we’ve been, including the night that brought us together. When Payal and Zain first came in, and then Anne and Gigi and Viv. Vic, tell us she was happy to become our #1 stalker. When people came in and said, “We saw you on Walnut Street” or “We saw you on Glenridge Avenue” when they spotted the typewriters, and the way their eyes got so big. The sound of the keys on a Wednesday afternoon. A bowl made out of magazine, filled with first lines. The way a community rises like dough.
Cecilia helping with the first art openings. Colleen and her thousand-watt grin, all the way to her eyes. A French crepe station at the holiday pop-up. All the “what if we” that became a “yes.” Thousands of hours of leaning and learning over a paint-splattered table.
A tiny book machine that emptied and filled and emptied and filled. The bicycle cart Rachel gifted us, and the additional real estate it made on the sidewalk and when I rode the parade route and rang the bell and everybody waved. Writing prompts for strangers. Things to take and share. Small, unexpected acts of healing.
The first wine stains on the carpet. After a birthday party, ground-in potato chips, cake frosting, forgotten favors. Renee coming in for her mental health breaks. Scott arriving certain afternoons and how it felt like Mr. Rogers neighborhood. Summer camp yoga with Ruth, and then the room careening with girls. Jojo and the quiet way she slipped to the back to continue her story. Lulu and her gymnastics after the cleanup. Abby and her love of vacuuming at the end of the day. The way the closing art show always brought tears in my eyes. How 600 square feet can look bigger than it is, and then how it can seem like a living room.
The too-hot atrium and Frank Sinatra piped in and how slow our internet was and maybe that was the point. The way people squinted through the tinted glass, and what brought them inside to say hello. The long days of that first year, followed by the permission slip of “Open by chance or by appointment.” Thousands and thousands of origami folds. When a parking spot felt like a lucky break. Yarn bombs on a tree, at a parking meter, on a utility pole. The deepening belief that art can happen anywhere, and does.
Book launches and tiny instrument concerts. An open mic with a captive audience. How the view kept changing with each exhibit, but the feeling remained the same. The clutter of the back room, the collision in the basement, shelves like an archaeological dig. Sophia angling for the chocolate she knew was hiding on top of the microwave. Pipe cleaners always at the ready. A tabletop popcorn maker that filled the room with nostalgia. The surprise of whoever showed up. They way certain people began reinventing their own stories. When Laura said, I can taste you in this soup. The way Madeleine and Ben lingered after events, the loveseat we clustered around to download our observations. Yana and her yarn in the window, a cascade of bright color. Elise and her pride of her girls. Fruit salad in an ice cream cone.
The countless slices of the paper cutter and the smell of hot glue in the air. A poetry reading that shifted the temperature in the room.
The glee of watching people clink glasses under art. Every day like a fortune cookie, waiting to be cracked open.
How the room looked from the outside at night, a little like a snow globe.
How sometimes, walking out the door, we sighed in the deepest contentment.
Being welcomed and being known and being loved. There is no better thing than this,