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Utter Cruelty

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To the editors:

On January 24 of this year, a cold Sunday night, 35 neighbors gathered to say good-bye to Rosie and Tina. They may not live here anymore, but they are fondly remembered. And they were an important part of our lives while they did live among us.

Whoever Marion Karczmar is, and none of the neighbors who have angrily met this weekend knows her, she never was one of us. Here's how it really was.

When Tina called and said, come over for a piece of cake, it was half a cake tin. She fed the neighborhood. And it was good. So was her mostaccioli. It was the entree of the block parties. Although I doubt Tina would use that word.

Rose was a cat lady. She found my wandering cat more than once. And took care of every stray that happened by. And paid for the vets. And really cared.

Everybody stopped at Tina's steps to say hello. The neighborhood kids loved her, in the manner of children who do not pass judgment on people who aren't like them. The mothers learned from the kids.

Rose and Tina watched the block like secret service agents. I never felt I needed a security system while those ladies were around.

Sometimes, early in the morning, I would discover Rose shoveling my walk. I would have had to get home from work at 3 PM to water my lawn before she did. Let it be noted that I am half Rose's age, and do not lack for shovel or hose.

Once, when my engine died, I called Tina to see if her son, Nicky, had a jumper cable. He came out at 10 PM to jump start me. That's what neighbors are for, he said. Not a terribly articulate man. Just a good neighbor.

Because my house is next to Tina's, I was one of the first to hear the ladies were selling. I was the one who got to see the looks of dismay on the neighbors' faces when I told them. The end of an era. It won't be the same without them. I guess it had to happen sometime. These were some of the comments I heard. The first words I heard from the buyer were: I suppose everybody hates me for doing this.

Back to that going-away party. I haven't seen such an outpouring of affection and goodwill in a long time. From young and old. Singles and families. Renters and owners. Newcomers and old guard. We all knew we were losing a little bit of the reason we had moved to this neighborhood in the first place.

We were losing good neighbors.

Rose and Tina never ate on West Ontario. They didn't work out at health clubs. They never honed their verbal skills on newspaper articles. And they wouldn't know a yuppie if one stood on their front steps, because there were no yuppies or gentrifiers or social critics on our block. just good neighbors.

God, how could a neighborhood paper be so cruel!

Margot Adler Wallace

Chicago

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