Calliope at 9 Months: The Crash

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I wasn’t going to do a 9-month. I checked in with you guys at 3, and again at 6; just after the holidays. I thought a 9 was excessive and pointless. I was just gonna wait until my one year anniversary and do a year in review and basically “sign off” as far as updates go. One year is a big deal. After that, I’m just a shop that’s been open a while. Not new anymore, just “open,” until maybe the 5-year mark. That downhill coast into what I thought would be the last big bump before I settled into a nice rhythm was interrupted by a car crashing through my front window only 10 months and 1 week into my first year.

By now you all know what happened – on Sunday, March 19th, some fool lost control of her car and slammed into the building my precious little store calls home. The driver took out my window and the window of the business next door, spraying shattered glass, splintered wood, and road grit all over my beautiful store and the products therein. No one was there. I am closed on Sundays and was supposed to be having tea with my friend and our moms. Instead, just as we parked, I got a phone call from my landlord saying someone had hit the building and when I asked if he had a key so my husband could get in and look around, he said “You’re not gonna need a key…”

I called my husband and tell him to go over and see what was going on but as I dialed, I told everyone there what happened and couldn’t even get through the sentence “Someone drove into my store” without bursting into tears. I’m so relieved I had my friend there plus EXTRA moms. Then came the emails and the texts.

“What’s going on??”
“Are you ok? What’s happening??”
“I heard someone crashed into your store!”

We skipped tea and grabbed something fast before hopping back in the car. I sat in a cafe in Providence with a watery coffee and a really shitty croissant and felt like someone had died.

I was ok on the way home. Like maybe it wasn’t real because I was far away when it happened. But as we neared Natick Center and turned onto North Main, everything came (ahem) crashing in on me again at the sight of emergency vehicles, dump trucks, police tape, and the absence of something very important to me: the front of my store.

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I stepped through the barriers and picked my way through debris being scooped up by the emergency clean up crew. The car and its driver had long gone. I found a box of rainbow notecards sitting in a puddle, and my clouds and their glitter raindrops sat under wood and wall board.

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When I saw the pictures Rob sent me earlier, it looked like nothing was really wrong. I thought all my notecards, which were right by the window, were just knocked over. The car managed to miss all my product! But here I was, standing in this strange portal that exposed my shop to the elements, the Fourth Wall literally broken down, nothing between the audience and the players. It did seem like a play or a movie. A big open space where I could look through and hope it was pretend.

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My store WAS just as I had left it, only there was a strange filter over it, resembling the scenes from Titanic when they fade back and forth from what it looked like when it was built to what it looked like underwater.

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The sun shone and melted the snow on the roof which brought in water. The crew brought in mud and sand. I didn’t know what else to do but just LOOK at everything. And sweep. I swept the glass under my center table, under the pen desk, that went all the way back to my back wall. So if I HAD been sitting there, it’s not for sure I would have been perfectly fine, not to mention what would have happened if I had been straightening the thank you cards.

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Time passed. I watched the crew work. When they finally brought in the plywood to board up the window, there was nothing left to really do. So we went home.

That night and over the next couple days the messages poured in. Instagram, Facebook, emails, texts, all asking if we were ok, if anyone was there, if there was anything we need, what can we do to help, I’m so sorry. Your beautiful store.

I had no idea what I was going to do. I’d only been open 10 months! Nowhere to go. Nowhere to sell. No idea what I could even sell even if I had a place to go! How long will it take to get this fixed? How long would I be away from my store? What do I do now??

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Offers came to set up tables here, there, everywhere. Did I want to have a shopping night and sell things? WHAT WOULD I SELL? I had people bombarding me with information and questions. They so wanted to help. I was so so grateful for all the offers but I felt so lost. I went to bed Sunday night and woke up a million times. The next morning, I bought paint.

On the first day of Spring, not even 24 hours after the car came in, I went to my store, half-covered in plywood, pretty on the inside but broken and hurting on the outside and gave her a pretty new face.

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In giving Calliope a new “window,” I restored her until she could be rebuilt, but I also restored some part of myself that was broken and hurting, too. Having my back to traffic made my skin crawl, but people came up to chat and hug, and others honked and waved as they passed. And just before the weather turned frigid again, I finished, and came away with a clear head.

I couldn’t be more grateful to the residents of Natick. It’s nice to know you are loved and I am so proud of my little store for making a home in the hearts of these people. They want so badly to do something, I got a “warning” that if I don’t come up with something they can do, they were not going to take no for an answer. They were getting violently helpful. It has been less than a week and I already have a new venue for my calligraphy class, a fundraiser to attend, and several possibilities to set up a small presence somewhere in town until I reopen. I am overwhelmed by how much everyone loves me and my little Calliope. Then there is the support from the stationery community. These people make their living thinking of ways to make people smile.They have sent me messages and notes, shared my Go Fund Me page, thought of small ways to fundraise, offered replacement product….

I’ve been taking stock of the damages, which are considerable. Each product I have to toss in the trash breaks my heart a little all over again. This was someone’s hard work. All those people offering to help me. I know the name of the person who made this. I’ve met them, talked to them, I KNOW them. All my beautiful things, handmade by a real person I’ve talked to, going into the trash.

Paper is such an interesting material. It’s delicate in so many ways but can be cut, trimmed, folded, sent through heavy machines, pressed with metal, and come out as something clean and beautiful and whole on the other side. We will, too. Calliope will be whole again.

I hope you will stay and see us through.

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