Thursday, November 14, 2013

My sister in Greece

In 1991, my youngest sister, Joanne, spent a week in Margariti. The kids gravitated to her like bees to honey. They were constantly seeking her out and buzzing in circles around her.  Marianna, Dina and Yeorgos could only speak Greek but they chattered away -- unfazed by the fact that she did not understand them. 

These are my most vivid memories of our week together:

1.  Joanne's scream when she was getting dressed and found a centipede in her underwear.  I had been in Margariti long enough to know never to leave anything on the floor, even for the briefest moment -- no matter what!

2.  Joanne's reaction to the young boy in Parga who swam up to her while she was floating on a blow-up raft and seemed determined to romance her. 
Young boy: Hi, I want to show you some fun. Have you ever been with a seventeen year old?
Joanne:  Yeah. When I was seventeen. Leave me alone. Go away.

3.  Joanne reprimanding me when I had allowed sweet little Yeorgos (wearing the red and blue striped shirt in the picture above) to take the punishment for my crime -- a terrible unforgivable crime. But I'm telling you now, I plead ignorance! I didn't know how to stop the dominos as they fell toward poor little Yeorgos! 

Here's the excerpt from the memoir, The Nifi:

     Yeorgos was a high-energy tornado, whirling between the adults, kicking up dust and announcing his presence at every turn, which won him the reputation of the kid who probably did it. If anyone said, "hey, stop it," from outside the range of our view, it would always be followed by his mother, Anastasia's, high pitched, "Yerogos!" as she reprimanded without further words.
     So that Saturday, unaware that bread could only be purchased on weekdays, Joanne and I sat in the kitchen entertaining the children while the bulk of the guests and relatives were in the yard, cleaning up after a feast, readying to nap as siesta time approached. I remember we were all laughing and whatever we were doing entailed the ripping of the inside of a loaf of bread and leaving the crust behind. I was the major culprit, and very much enjoying the laughter of the children. Yeorgos was saying something I didn't understand as he grabbed the loaf from me and stuck his hand in the narrow, hollowed-out tube of crust. Just then, his mother entered and he froze, his arm in the air, a full loaf of bread pushed up to his elbow.
     He broke into a run with Anastasia in pursuit, many more words following in rapid succession, of which I understood none.
     "Linda, say something! Tell her!"
     I tried to get Anastasia's attention, but she was throwing words like bullets toward her son who had run upstairs and locked the door. His face was streaked with tears as he came to the window and the two exchanged a barrage of language, all incomprehensible to me.
     "Linda!" Joanne was appalled that I was allowing Yeorgos to take the rap. 
     I grabbed Anastasia's arm, "I do," I said in Greek, pointing at myself and pantomiming my pulling bread apart; at least that was my intention. But it appeared by the escalation and increased pitch of her voice that she may have thought I was tattling. 
     I was able to get Yeorgos' forgiveness many years later, he remembering none of it, as we laughed about it together. But on that day, I felt sick with guilt and Joanne reprimanded me all evening, deservedly so. Not only had I let that small boy take my punishment, I had also destroyed bread, the worst offense among people who knew of a time when there was not enough bread to feed their hunger. 

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