‘The Real Difference’

It was hot–no, no (that doesn’t quite describe it). The torrid ocean wind blowing in our parched faces was the fiery column of air that shoots out the back of a 747 jet engine and makes the scenery on the other side dance the Brazilian samba, the wind that makes people see mirages and go a little crazy, the heat that really does fry eggs on the sidewalk. We invaded the casainha, eager to defy the blazing sun with a relaxing lunch-break.

“Lunch is ready,” Linete hollered, smiling as she parted the kitchen drape that should have been a wall. “Come and eat!”

Linete was a beanpole, tall and lanky with jet-black hair and an enormous grin. She taught me the difference between a pair of shoes and a smile. Worn shoes ware, but time only strengthens a smile. Thanks to years of exercise, Linete had one of the most powerful smiles I’d ever seen. She always made sure we had lunch, always gave us water when we visited, and even organized a Relief Society service project to clean our house. She was my Brazilian mother, a welcome friend at a time when my real mom was thousands of miles away in the land of pasteurized milk and Snickers candy bars.

As we entered her tidy kitchen a table full of rice and beans greeted us. Though poor, Linete always gave what few mites she had; her big heart seasoned food better than black pepper. The food spread before us was a king’s banquet, and the aura of happiness and hospitality that Linete wore as an extra layer of clothing made me a king.

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