Come over anytime and I’ll make you Greek coffee, our neighbor offers when we first meet. It was the peak of summer and a molten-hot beverage was the last thing on my mind. Time passes. We greet each other in passing, remarking on the beautiful weather when we happen to hang our washing at the same time. I can’t help but collect her stories: our Victorian that she’d bought for her daughter in the 1970s, her resolute optimism despite her husband’s declining mental health, life since leaving their tiny Greek village in the 1960s.

A few days before our move, she asks if she can come over to see our house. She hasn’t been inside since the new owners renovated six(ish) years ago. The next day we’re walking through no. 9 together, as I ask her a million questions about what the house used to be like. We’re in awe of this collision of past and present. Come over tomorrow morning before you leave and I’ll make you Greek coffee, she offers again. The way she rolls her “r”s reminds me of Spanish. This time I know I’ll take her up on it.

The next morning I knock on her door. A few minutes pass before she’s beaming at me from behind the heavy wooden door, inviting me in. Her arm winds around my waist and we walk down the dark, narrow hallway together towards the kitchen. She plies me with food as her attention shifts to making our coffee, thick and sweet. We chat while waiting for it to cool and I realize I’m sorry I didn’t do this sooner. Not all people are nice, she says, but proclaims me one of them.

She reluctantly lets me go when I tell her I have to finish cleaning up next door. She asks me to write to her, and to visit her when we’re back. I love you, she says, as she wraps me in an enormous hug. The kind only a grandmother can give.

My last coffee in Melbourne wasn’t made by the guys at our local. It was made by Fontina, our 76 year-old neighbor who lives at no. 7.

It was the best I’ve had in a long, long time. ☾

Header image: Foolproof Living


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