When a local cafe owner decides to close her community hub after seven years, I felt she needed to know what she had achieved beyond the great coffee and easy smiles. This is my note to her and our community.
Around ten years ago I moved to Maroubra, a beautiful beach-side area of Sydney that feels to this day more like a village than a city suburb. Truth be told, I moved here on a bit of a whim. I had met friends at the pub and been for a walk along the beach one sunset with the full moon rising over the ocean and horses silhouetted against the colourful sky on the beach’s southern headland. It had seemed like paradise.
Soon after that I brought my mum and young son to the area for a Sunday brunch and when my boy toddled off down the street whilst we were chatting a large and heavily-tattooed young man corralled him and told him to, ‘go back to your mum little fella’. I was sold. This place seemed to have the rare and warm embrace of an actual community. Where else in the big city would bulky youths care when a little kid wandered down the street alone?
It wasn’t long before we found a ramshackle old building right on the beach to move into. The rent was cheap and the place was falling down. It suited me perfectly, because truthfully I was a little broken too. I needed to recoup and build myself up after a break-up and some lonely times of single-mothering whilst searching for a place to grow and redirect our lives.
And then a portal opened. Through some magic synchronicity Molly’s Fresh Food café started up around the corner. From then on, I was ensconced in a small group of rabble-rousers living the dream in our village by the sea. I studied to be a builder part-time, worked part time, and brought up my boy with a huge amount of support and love from this impromptu crew of people. A bunch of strangers brought together by one lady and her business became my lifeline.
Sunday evenings, times I had previously dreaded for being so socially isolated, became my favourite part of the week. Molly would pull a few chairs and tables and a sound system out onto the street, my boy would play with the kids in the apartments next door and we would all have a drink and laugh and dance the evening away until it was time to shut up shop. All manner of people would come by – astrophysicists, carpenters, digital strategists, customs workers, designers, travellers, actors, publicists, writers, DJs, artists, tilers, musicians, you name it.
These people became the mesh between me and the rest of the world. I had moved here alone and vulnerable and had fallen into a vibrant and supportive community. Molly introduced me to her friends and took me to parties with these wonderful people who were happy to have my son and I come along. Years later I met my now-husband at one of those parties. We call our daughter a ‘true Molly’s baby’ because of the part Molly played in getting us together.
So you see dear Molly, you have completely changed my life. Not that you meant to, but just by doing what you do you helped me to become who I am today. You helped me rebuild.
I reckon there are others who have also stumbled across your café just for a cuppa and ended up ‘workshopping’ something important going on in their life, or met an important ally, colleague or friend. You have built community just by being open for business. You and the love you bring to our community and to all that you do has changed us. Thank you Miss Molly Malone, you have my deepest gratitude.
Just keep on keeping it real.