It’s with sad heart that I say my neighbor passed away yesterday. Miss Mary was the curmudgeonly matriarch of our little strip of Baltimore, having lived in the same home for over sixty years. She raised her family there and would often lament the changes to the neighborhood over the years – the fact that you could no longer look down the street and watch the oyster ships come due to new construction, or that all the mom and pop shops had closed down and you couldn’t get a decent loaf of fresh-baked bread. Despite her grouchy countenance, she would often humor my requests to identify what certain buildings used to be in their former lives (the office across from us was an auto shop, the bar on the corner always run as such) and regale me with stories of “the old neighborhood” and its inhabitants. Over the years we went from barely acknowledging each other (her standard treatment to newcomers on the block) to exchanging treats – my freshly canned tomatoes, her homemade rice and meat “peasant balls.” I still have some of her jalapeno cornbread in my freezer.
I don’t have any pictures of Miss Mary. Fitting, really, since when I told her I was on a quest to find photos of the area in celebration of the centennial of our home (built simultaneously with three consecutive blocks of rowhouses for the workers of the nearby canning factories) she replied “oh, we never did that, took pictures.” I hope this one does her memories justice.
Rest in peace, Miss Mary. You will be missed.