Life's simple pleasures

Maria and Paolo

“Lo mas importante es la familia.”  

The most important thing is family, says Maria, smiling and nodding. 

Maria lives in Kensington with her husband Paolo. She was born in the old Portugese settlement of Colonia in Uruguay and grew up in the capital, Montevideo. Paolo, Italian born, grew up just across the Rio de la Plata in the San Isidro province in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  

Maria and Paolo have been active senior members of Unison’s Kensington community for six years. They lived in Ringwood prior, however when Maria’s only daughter and grandchildren moved to Brunswick, they requested a move to be closer to family. 

Since moving to Kensington, they have been involved in all manner of community activities including tending a garden bed in the Kensington Community Food Forest. “I gardened with my grandparents when I was a little girl in Uruguay. I hadn’t gardened in such a long time.” 

The garden has given Maria and Paolo a wonderful opportunity to grow fresh produce and have some gentle outdoor exercise. The couple work together, with Paolo in charge of watering. When asked what they grow Maria reels off the vegies in her native Spanish. In Summer; tomates (tomatoes)lechuga (lettuce), pimiento (capsicum) and zapallipo (squash). In Winter; berenjena (eggplant) and calabaza (pumpkin), and always hierbas (herbs). 

Cultural dinnertime favourites at Maria and Paolo’s using their home grown produce includes Matambre Arrollado (rolled steak stuffed with vegies, eggs and herbs) and Milanesa, a dish similar to schnitzel.   

Before the pandemic put a hold on community activities where friendships have developed, Maria and Paolo were regular attendees at the community lunches at Kensington, the Seniors Group outings and the Healthy Living and Learning Program. English is the couple’s second language. “Of course, it is much better to see people face to face and it is easier for us to communicate in English this way,” explains Maria. “It will be nice to have the activities again.” 

The pandemic sure hasn’t slowed down Maria’s crocheting. She is a master at it! “Crochet and knitting are very important to me. It keeps my hands and mind busy.” Maria is a part of Kensington’s Threading Stories project, a space to create, craft and make new connections, practice her English and share her culture with her neighbours, when COVID restrictions allow. Her beautifully crocheted squares, made with repurposed yarn, will be made into gorgeous blankets and donated to an organisation in need.      

“Mi abuela me enseñó a tejer y bordar, y mi madre me enseñó el croché . Cuando era joven, mi madre, mi abuela y yo nos sentábamos y hacíamos nuestras manualidades juntas.” 

Maria reminisces and creates this beautiful image; my grandmother taught me to knit and embroider and my mother taught me to crochet. When I was young, my mother, grandmother and I would sit and do our crafts together.  

Lo mas importante es la familia.