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Maria: The Boisterous Neighbor

It has been said in the scriptures "that man should love his neighbor as himself." Nothing challenges this exhortation as actually having to be kind to your physical neighbor.  In my family's case this wasn't too much a challenge since we had a unique, rare, type of neighbor that impacted all of our lives for the better.  Her name was Maria.

Maria was from Portugal. She came to this country for a better life.  She was a proud Portuguese woman. She spoke the language fluently, her kids also spoke the language, and she was old school in her thinking.  Black was black and white was white there were no other choices.

Maria was also loud.  You can hear her from across the block and God forbid you got on her bad side the whole neighborhood would find out.

But Maria possessed an attribute that was rare.  She was honest, told the truth like it was, and was very loyal; especially to our family when we needed her help.

One funny memory comes to mind.  My father, yes the same guy with the blue speedos one day went to our small 12 x 8 pool for a morning swim when all of sudden Maria confronted him on his swim gear saying something to the effect that why was he showing off his jewelry to the entire world.  The strange thing was that my father continued going to the pool, but through a different way so as not to endure the scorn of Maria's bone crushing aphorisms.

Another time Maria scared my brothers and I.  At about the age of 8 I had this peculiar habit of throwing toys on top of her garage roof.  My brothers and I thought that we were slick and that she wouldn't catch us when all of a sudden she sprung from behind her bushes and swung a broom at us. That was the last time we ever did that again.

Maria also could be picky.  One day she went to the supermarket to get her Portuguese rolls.  When she found that the rolls weren't to her liking; she actually went to the baker and told him to his face that he had no right to be a baker if he couldn't make a good roll.

Despite her boisterousness Maria had a soft side especially when it came to our mom and her work with special needs adults.

In 1994 our family was going through a rough time.  We had little money and for the first time in our lives there was talk of possibly having to move.  Maria helped our family financially and most importantly emotionally as she took our family under her wing. We spent many days at her place where she always encouraged us to keep fighting.  Maria would never allow us to quit or to give in to weakness.  She taught us fortitude as well as some good old fashioned common sense.

Despite her resiliency she showed remarkable grace at her work where she served as a counselor to special needs adults.  She was so dedicated to her cause that she would rent out her apartment at a very affordable rate to give these people a sense of dignity.

Yes Maria was a one of a kind neighbor; loud, but soft, tough, but loving, sarcastic and witty.

Maria has now moved back to Portugal.  But I miss my encounters with her.  Mostly I hope that I get the chance to thank her for being that boisterous, one of a kind neighbor.


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