I’ve rewritten the first few sentences of this column a billion times. I have a simple thing to say that’s also very hard … Goodbye.

At the beginning of July, my husband and I are moving to Seattle, Washington, to follow a dream. Long story short, in 2004, I went to Seattle with some girlfriends on vacation. I was instantly smitten with the city on the bus ride from the airport to our hostel, and over the course of the next week, I fell in love with it like one might a person.

However, I was still in grad school in Chicago in 2004, so I bought a place in Forest Park. I fell in love with it unexpectedly, too. I’ve always had difficult feelings about the Chicago area—the kind that come from moving somewhere as a child and having a hard time fitting in. And my hatred for extremely cold winters and hot summers didn’t help either. I stayed in the Chicago area because of family, because of school, but I chose Forest Park. I chose it for the cemeteries and the lore that went with them; for Ferrara Pan and The Old School Records and Centuries and Sleuths and the Beacon Pub; and because all the Forest Parkers I’d met were friendly, fun, and non-judgmental. In other words, I chose it because it felt like the one place in all of the Chicago area where I might feel like I belong. And I did.

This community is incredible and I’ve been so proud to be a part of it. I’ve also been truly honored to serve Forest Park as a member of the Library Board for the last year. Our library really is a powerhouse of great programming run by a brilliant staff. I’m going to miss it in a big way. I’m also going to miss my patrons at the Beacon; my fellow volunteers at C.A.T.S. for Forest Park; the folks at the Community Center, the Community Garden, and the Park District who’ve always been so eager to talk about their awesome events and programs with me; the amazing business owners I’ve met; and all the girls at Bertuca Salon, especially Debbie, I don’t think I’ll ever find a stylist as good as her. I’ll miss jogs in Forest Home Cemetery, the smell of Atomic Fireballs, and the waterslide at the pool.

I’m bummed that I won’t be here for the next Casket Race in October or the debut of the Historical Society’s latest brainchild, The Des Plaines River Anthology—Forest Park’s Spoon River Anthology. I contributed a piece on Emma Goldman and hope you all will go to the “authors’ reading” on July 12th at 7 pm at Centuries and Sleuths to see how it works out for me.

I will visit, of course. I’m dying to see what will happen with the Roos building, and though I’m sad about both Summer Fest and the Farmer’s Market being canceled this year, I have faith that Forest Park will bring them back in bigger, better ways.

When I started writing for the Review in 2008, it gave me a chance to explore and get to know our village better. I can’t tell you how much I’ve treasured that experience, especially meeting Review readers. My last shift at the Beacon is Saturday night, June 22nd, and I’m using it as a going-away party. You are all invited. Say hello. Say goodbye. Let me thank you for being my neighbors and my friends. I will miss you so much, Forest Park, and I’m so grateful for all you’ve given me.

Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie is the author of "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" and "Ballads of Suburbia." She's a proud Forest Parker who holds a master's in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally...

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