Anticipation

Sitting, waiting for the time to come to head to Kalamata, where my mom, Fanis’ family and the uncles, aunts, and cousins await. My days of peace and quiet behind me, I am about to be immersed in family. Ten days of going back to a place that holds so many memories.

When my sister Rebecca was born, I went to live with my maternal grandparents for a year, so my mom could deal with just two school-age kids and a baby. My grandparents did not have a TV or a phone, or toys for me. I have a feeling that the imagination that has served me so well in life was born, or blossomed, because I was five-year-old kid living with two senior citizen farmers.

I can trace so many things that I still love back to those days. News and plays on the radio, much like the NPR shows that accompany my Saturday morning errands. Having the beach to myself on a gray winter day. Hell, t was the only time I had a dog as a kid. (‘Ouzo’ the dog didn’t last with us too long to count).

But most of all, I remember my grandparents, talking to me as if I was an adult. My grandmother taking me to the market in town, with the smell of roasting coffee still bringing me back there regardless of the years or distance between my today and that yesterday. Or to church, where Bible readings cum parables kept a fidgety kid in his seat. With a little help from Yiayia’s hand. (She definitely got the “Spare the rod, spoil the child” lesson down.) Or the family history I wish I could remember. Things about my mom and her siblings when they were little. Memories of occupiers in World War II, most malevolent, some Italians being the exception. Two people who named the child born to them on Christmas 1941, Eirini, which means peace, perhaps two Greek farmers’ way of expressing what they hoped would soon come.

So later today, when I make the walk that used to see so long to my 5-year-old self, I will pause and look at what remains of their humble little home, and wonder what it would be like to spend another evening listening to stories on the radio, and stories from them. What they would think of the man that became of that little boy with the crazy hair.

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Artistes in (one of my versions of ) Paradise

Today I got to watch two artists at work. My two cousins, Takes and Avraam, have been in and lut of the handbag business for decades. I wish I had thought to take pictures of their progress, from design, to cutting, to shearing, to sewing. Their final product was a buttery soft Italian leather laptop bag that will sell for far less than what such craftsmanship is worth. Between the start and finish, there was swimming, and a birthday dinner that should have all of us full for the next few days. The obligatory midday nap, then, more cafe sitting with my brother George and his family. The impish 4-year-old kept getting his older brother in trouble, but I could not care less, since I am just so happy to be around them. At the end of the day, around midnight, my mom, Fanis, Paula, Chico and I went for a swim under the full moon, and to check the turtle nests on the beach. Jennifer Lally Sargeant, I might need your help figuring out duo’s and don’ts of that.

Except for the dinner, which was with about15 of my favorite people on the planet and was 30 years removed from the last time I was able to celebrate my cousin’s birthday, it was a rather ordinary day. At least it would be, if it didn’t happen entirely too infrequently. I don’t know that Greece is everyone’s idea of paradise. You know about the economic crisis, and maybe the driving style could be calmer, but the sea, the food, the language (the fulfilling nature of the swear words alone is worth the trouble of learning it), the family members, and the vibrancy of the seaside nightlife make pretty close for me.

Leaving Kalamata

That which does not kill us only makes need 17 cigarettes, each requiring a stop, to drive about 170 miles.

The past two days have been exhausting. Even by my vampiric standards, there has been little in the way of sleep, mostly because of hanging out with family, while missing the ones who were not there.

Today, I left my parents’ hometown of Kalamata. With that, I have said goodbye to more people and places who were instrumental in my happy childhood than I care to count. Cousins, aunts, uncles, beaches, ancestral homes, you name it. Tonight, for the first time ever, I said goodbye to my mom here. Every other time I have left Greece, she was either leaving with me, or waiting back in the US.

For someone who loves new experiences, I sure fucking hated that one. I am a momma’s boy, proudly, and yeah.

Now, with only a little more than two days left, I am trying to figure out how to leave here with a wet bathing suit, as I did in Hydra and Kalamata. Honestly, there is not a thing that I have missed from the US. Ingrained as the experiences I’ve had in the past two weeks are in me, the trip has been a rekindling of a love for a place whose charms I have purposefully forgotten in order to make being away from it tolerable. I honestly did not remember the sea in front of my grandparents’ home being quite so beautiful, or refreshing. Or how good Greek food in Greece really is, or how hanging out with your favorite cousins is a great way to find yourself with pains in your sides from laughing too much. (Ask me to tell you the horse joke!) Now that I do, I can only hope that I will…will what? Adjust? Win the lottery and and go back? Figure out a way to work from here next summer? Eh, I know poor Jenn is hoping for the first one, as she can predict the miserable fuckedness that will hover over me, like Pig Pen’s cloud of dust.

So, once again, it’s about 4:30 AM here, and I sit here outside of George’s home, the sound of a bunch of barking dogs is doing nothing good for either my mood, or my prospects for sleeping any time soon. (Skaste koloskula!) I’ll end today’s ramblings with a hope: that you never know howI feel. Although I know that many of you, already have parents far away, or worse, so you already do.