A block away from where we live, I have walked by Maria’s home for ten years. Sitting on her porch on most days, I got a friendly wave, a big smile, and an occasional comment on the weather as I walked by. A few years ago when our son was born, we would often stop with the stroller at her porch and affirm whether the weather was nice or warm or too hot or too cloudy.

At two when he learnt to ‘scoot’ on a balance-bike, the slope up to her porch from the sidewalk and down again was his first attempt at tackling speed. A couple of times she brought out little toys for him – a doll (for the longest time she thought he was a girl given our son’s long hair before his first haircut just before his third birthday), a small troll, a tiny car. Our son graduated to a pedal bike last summer and his trip up and down the porch got faster every time we walked by. Maria would let out a hoot of excitement every time he would accelerate down the small walkway on his bike, swerving at the last-minute to turn on to the sidewalk.

Sometimes we’d see her on the other side of the street with a group of apartment dwellers who had a Friday evening get-together out on the sidewalk every week in Summer. Firmly grasping the wine glass in her hands, she always had a smile and sparking eyes looking at everyone who walked by.

Conversation was limited with her limited English and our nonexistent Polish.

A few months ago after I came back from a trip to India I noticed Maria wasn’t at her porch and the house seemed locked for weeks. But it was winter time and I thought nothing of it.

A few weeks ago, I saw some people were moving furniture and belongings out in to a large trash container.

I haven’t seen Maria since late fall last year. Last week I saw someone left flowers on the sidewalk in front of her house.

Maria doesn’t live there anymore.