Our couchsurfing host Maria rushed out of her apartment building and greeted us with warm hugs. Already her smile made us feel a lot more at ease after a long day of travelling. It is Rio de Janeiro after all, a city with high-crime reputation that made us quite a bit nervous. After all we have received enough warnings from fellow Brazilians.
Maria introduced us to her mother first, then later on her younger son David who was in his early-twenties and was surprisingly shy around strangers. During a later conversation, Maria mentioned that both her sons were professional ballet dancers. “Oh yeah, I read in your Couchsurfing profile that you dance samba very well!”I said to Maria,”So it runs in the family!” Maria heard me and just smiled.
The second day morning while having breakfast, we heard Maria’s mother singing to songs played in the radio. Such a beautiful voice to a body weakening by cancer. I commented to Maria and was told that Mother had been singing in a choir up until last year even through several years’ cancer treatment. Once again I commented,”Looks like plenty artistic genes in your family!” Again Maria just smiled.
Later that day the topic of Maria’s sons’ performances came up again while we were in the kitchen. While showing me photos of various performances, Maria casually mentioned me that both her sons were actually adopted. David at birth, and the older son Javier much later. “How?” My curiosity never ends.
Maria carried on flipping the photo album and pointing here and there while answering:“Well, David and Javier became friends when they studied in the same dance school since they were boys. Many years later, Javier’s family found out that he was gay and kicked him out on the street, so he had been staying with different friends. For a while he was staying at my home and we got along great. The little while turned to a longer time period. Then one day Javier asked me if he can invite some friends over. Of course.”
“Then he asked,’When I invite my friends, instead of saying that it is at my friend’s mom’s house, can I just say it is at my mom’s house?’”
“That was a few years’ back, and we have been a family since then. Now Javier wears a tattoo that says Son of Maria.”
When Maria finished telling the story, I saw through my teary eyes that her hands were still caressing through the photos. It was with such tenderness and pride.
Rio de Janeiro is indeed what people call “Cidade Maravilhosa”, Marvelous City. It gives you what you are looking for if you look hard enough. Some times hope, sometimes fear, and sometimes even a mother.
Fine Print: The names in the story are changed to respect family’s privacy, but this is a real story.