BRUNSWICK — Just who is that crazy woman who stands on the corner of Maine Street and Longfellow Avenue every day, the one wearing all those funny hats and colorful costumes, always waving and smiling at cars?
Sure, she’s a crossing guard, because she helps kids cross the street, but what’s up with the goofy garb and the happy face?
Unraveling the mystery means visiting the home of Lisa Green, where you’re warmly greeted by Olivia and Miss Mabel, Green’s two robust and, it must be said, calorically enhanced English Bulldogs.
Green’s path to a crossing guard job was not exactly normal.
“Normal people worry me,” Green said, laughing.
She grew up Catholic in the heavily Mormon city of Salt Lake City, Utah. She was going to become a nun (“That didn’t work out”). So she focused on philosophy, political science and theology at a Jesuit college in New York.
She then joined the Army as a way to rebel against what she describes as “hippie parents.” In the Army, she was an outspoken Democrat in a largely Republican organization.
During her 18 years in the military, Green traveled the world, including a stint in the Gulf War where, she says, “I saw things no one should see.”
In 2004, Green moved to Maine to take a position at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, before it closed.
Lisa has been a crossing guard since 2008, but she hasn’t always played the clown. “A car almost clipped me while I was at my first post on Jordan Avenue,” she said, ” so I decided to wear silly colorful hats so no one would miss me.”
Drivers passing by can’t possibly miss her now, whatever the month. October means all kinds of outlandish Halloween costumes. November brings a turkey theme. Christmas hats star in December, and so on right through the month of May, a time for flowery adornments. Every day a different costume or hat, rain or shine.
“My mother was a teacher, so I use lots of holiday decorations from her teaching days,” Green said. “And I shop at thrift stores. Sometimes my 13-year-old son Patrick (‘an awesome kid!’) makes me a hat. Sometimes we just redecorate old hats. One Christmas, Patrick even made a gingerbread house for me to wear.”
And how do people react to Green’s daily sartorial shenanigans? “Kids love it,” she said. “They wonder what I’m going to wear the next day. Nothing’s better than making a kid smile on the way to school.
“Old people often honk and wave as they drive by. Sometimes teenagers and young adults look at me like I’m weird. And every once in a while I’ll get a curmudgeon who just won’t smile.”
Even curmudgeons might smile if they spent some time hearing Lisa’s riff. Here’s one example: “I don’t need a man because I have those two dogs. They snore, they fart and they keep my tush warm at night.”
Lisa would like to get a part-time job to supplement her income, but only if it left her free to fulfill her crossing guard duties from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. every school day.
“I love kids, I’m a kid, too,” she said. “I’m goofy. I went through a serious phase of my life, and I don’t have to be serious anymore.”
Part of a twice-monthly series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org