6 years ago, a group of parents got together in the middle of a ruined city and decided to form a childcare center. After Katrina, there was a dearth of childcare, which posed a serious threat to the future of New Orleans. If folks couldn't go to work, they wouldn't come back or they wouldn't stay.
Abeona House was born.
5 1/2 years ago, I found myself on the front porch of a small cottage at the end of Oak Street, chatting with another parent as we sat nursing our infants. I felt lucky to be on the opening list but overwhelmed by the tasks that still needed to be done: painting, ramp building, gathering toys, supplies, furniture, wiring and plumbing, etc. Was this really going to happen? It seemed a little impossible.
5 years ago, Abeona House opened. I carried Sydney through the doors the first day (she was not quite walking yet) and left her in what was probably once a bedroom. I vividly remember the emotions in the building that morning: excitement, relief, trepidation, awkwardness, and the elephant in the room: would we be able to stay open?
4 years ago, I joined the Board of Directors. We were still open, but in order to be truly sustainable we would need to grow. Economy of scale and all that.
3 years ago, Evan came along and when I carried him through the doors for the first time, when he was one week old, and saw the sign on the door welcoming him to the world and watched how every single person in that building--teachers, kids, parents--made sure to give Sydney extra love and attention, how attuned they were to the needs of our family, it really struck me: this was our community. This was our place.
1 month ago, we signed a lease on a new property in Mid-City--a much larger building with tons of green space, a garden, and a kitchen. On the night of the first open house, I watched Sydney play with the child whose mother I sat with on that first day on Oak Street; theirs was the comfort of old friends, easy and unspoken, and when I told my kids it was time to leave Sydney hugged me and said "But why can't I go to the new Abeona House?"
Today is our last day on Oak Street. We're moving out all the furniture, stripping the walls of cabinets and decorations. The kids are excited and anxious. I'm probably going to cry all day as I move boxes and cribs across town.
Albert Schweitzer wrote, "Search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity." I have found that place in Abeona House. It's an incredible and important gift, to have the opportunity to love something, to believe in it fully, to watch it grow and struggle and expand, to watch your children learn how to develop as individuals while retaining a sense of community, of being a part of something bigger than themselves. I really have been searching for this place to invest my overabundance of passion and energy, and I am so fucking grateful to have found it.
Search and see. It really is worth it.