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American in Baja: Marianne

by Audrey Coffman

Marianne does hats; colorful, flower-bedecked, braid-banded hats. She takes something functional and only moderately noteworthy and adds charm and sweetness to create what is unique. That’s pretty much the way she approaches people too. I think I’m one of her hats. I met her shortly before I moved to Baja. She and her husband, Dave, were both gracious enough to talk to my husband and me, two gringos desperately searching for friendship in our newly-adopted hometown. They were kind enough to share time and a restaurant table. And now we are dear friends.

She is impressively tall, graceful and beautiful. Her short, blond hair frames her oval face. She’s quite lovely. When you talk to her, she’s listening and absorbing your words. Like all true friends, she empathizes; joyful about your joy, pained by your pain. I’ve heard talk that she can cuss, and that makes me like her even more. But, I’ve never heard her do that, nor utter a critical word about anyone. She is funny, but never sarcastic, sweet but never cloying.

What is most surprising about Marianne is that she probably shouldn’t have turned out this way. She knows better than most of us how tenuous happiness is, how scary it can be to just be alive. She hates flying, driving and anything that puts her or those she loves in harm’s way. Her childhood should have left her mean-spirited and insecure. Poverty breeds jealousy, abuse breeds anger—and some scars, emotional or physical, never heal. I think her spirit was strong and good enough to survive and flourish. I’m immensely proud of her.

Thanks, Marianne, for the Mother’s Day cards, especially the one from 2007, when my own kids forgot. And thanks for holding our puppy, Scarlett, while she slept in your lap for hours. Most of all, thanks for dressing up my life, like one of your hats.

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