2016 was a year of endings. Mostly, we think of beginnings as we approach a new year, but it is equally important to examine those things that now lie only in the past. Often, they reflect our values, contribute to our history, and reflect our sense of personal self.
Some endings are self-evident. Farewell to the integrity and quiet dignity of President Obama and his beautiful family. Farewell to the talented, too numerous to name, musicians, actors, artists, journalists, intellectuals and loved ones lost in 2016, who, through their extraordinary contributions, made our lives richer and better.
On a personal level, I bade farewell to a decade as I reached a new birthday ending with a zero. Does getting older make one wiser? Probably it does not, but as the years go by, our priorities change. Our ambitions also become different, and perhaps more modest.
My mother, now gone for many years, was fond of repeating a quote dating back to the 1950s, “growing old beats the alternative.” Indeed, that is so. Despite these bittersweet thoughts, I celebrated my birthday in style with many good friends and family, with the reassurance that love, shared values, and the determination to play our individual parts to make the future better will sustain us through difficult times.
Endings of restaurants and retail businesses are commonplace, especially in high rent San Francisco, but losing familiar and treasured places can be painful. One notable example of a well-established, long-lived shop that I frequented for many years that closed in 2016 was Dandelion.
Once located in posh Pacific Heights, later in the trendy Potrero district, Dandelion was always a delight, with books, cards, tableware, dishes and much more. Early on, Dandelion was a place I took my young children to shop for unique toys, decorations and novelties.
Later, following their move to the San Francisco design district, the store became my destination for Mariage Freres teas, but I always found so much more. Whether it was pasta bowls, maple candy during the holidays, a cocktail shaker, specialty chocolates, cookbooks and books about letters and letter writing, I could always count on Dandelion to offer wares I couldn’t resist.
Steve was my go-to guy for the perfect greeting card (Dandelion had the best selection of humor and LGBT wedding cards), and I also could count on him to offer sparkling wine to warm me up during my holiday shopping. Cookies and coffee or tea for customers was an everyday constant. I was heartbroken to find that Dandelion had closed without having had the opportunity to say goodbye. I miss you guys!
Arthur Beren shoes became my favored shoe store 20-plus years ago, when I wandered into their Union Square location in downtown San Francisco during a sale. As other stores (including that west coast retailer that got its start in the shoe business) discontinued carrying my size, the store Arthur Beren and shoe guru Morgan Van Rueden were there for me.
Arthur Beren shoes were a luxury, even on sale, but well worth it, because their top quality shoes and handbags were timeless, stylish without being trendy. Purchases I made over a decade ago still serve me well today. Over the years, Morgan, who attracted customers from all over the country, evolved in his role to become a friend with whom I shared many good laughs and conversations. Morgan, thanks for staying in touch. Hope to see you again in the future.
Six and a half years ago, I retired from my great job at the San Francisco Public Library. Lured by a buy-out, and weary from long hours and challenging changes to the landscape of libraries, the time seemed right, given the talented management crew in place. My somewhat early retirement gave me the opportunity to pursue other interests – taking classes, consulting here and there, and a part-time gig as an interim executive director of a non-profit.
My 37½-year career could not have been more fulfilling, despite working through some difficult times. Two and a half years ago, I was invited to come back, to work part-time as needed on special projects, and the extra time brought my library career to 40 plus years. The new job did not involve the same level of responsibility – I filled in for vacancies in programming and public relations, edited and wrote stories for a monthly newsletter, managed a Facebook account, contributed to annual reports, and wrote a couple of award-winning applications for some worthy projects, including a planning grant for a new teen center.
Now this project also has come to an end. New, talented people have filled those vacancies. But unlike other endings, I no longer feel that I left too soon. Those 40 years were wonderful years that brought me great satisfaction and growth.
Now it is time to move on and face the future.