Maria Lewis

What a delight it is to know our patient, Maria Lewis, who is sassy and seasoned,

What a delight it is to know our patient, Maria Lewis, who is sassy and seasoned, her spirit undiminished by her ninety-three years. In a recent interview, she shared some of her life adventures.

Maria’s family left the extreme poverty of Sicily for hard scrabble, immigrant life in Milwaukee, WI. Her Papa, uneducated and illiterate, laid railroad ties or labored in construction all his life. One sister worked in a sweatshop at fourteen, another at Johnson’s cookie and chocolate factory. Her brother took up wrestling. At ten or eleven, on Papa’s recommendation that she was a strong worker, Maria scrubbed neighbor’s floors being paid 50 cents per house. That money went straight to Mama.

This was a time of poverty and stress. The diet was poor, mostly pasta. Papa picked dandelions and mustard greens, growing wild in the street, to eat.  Papa brought home tripe from the slaughterhouse that he cleaned with a garden hose and bones that were boiled to make soup. Mama made beautiful tomato sauce. Delicious!

Maria married quite young, happy to escape her parents’ homel. She had wanted a bathing suit but was forbidden by her father. “No child of mine is going to expose herself.” Her older sister was already in California, married with three children.  Marriage was a great way to get away from her “Pa”.

Maria’s lifelong passion for dance ignited, when she lived next door to a French war bride and her Mexican husband. The rhythms of Rumba and Bolero seeped through the walls and her neighbors taught her these dances. She would sneak into weddings on Saturday afternoons to dance and have fun. In California she mastered West Coast Swing and Ballroom dancing at competition level. She danced every night!

Maria at ninety-three seems very much the same person. She is still a hard worker and volunteers at the Senior Center and the hospice store on El Camino Real. After childhood deprivation and disease Maria makes it a priority to enjoy nutritious meals like a large salad for lunch or salmon with brown rice and vegetables at dinner. She walks every morning and can dance two straight hours without sitting down. She took up oil painting during the pandemic and believes that “Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.” She grows lilies and sweet peas and likes to relax in her garden “au naturale” getting an all over suntan.

Maria honed her people skills working in restaurants and bars for fifty years. As a young woman, she did not know she was beautiful. Maria has enjoyed husbands and many dance partners. However, their names are not to be included. Maria is a woman who knows her own worth and this is about her, not them,  “Damn straight mama!” she said emphatically.

Mama and Papa said that Heaven and Hell are right here. You eat life or life will eat you.

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