Mom and two aunts visited me today. Its a weekly thing, a nice way to catch up with aunts I don’t often see, and I enjoy having mom here.
Its really funny though. They come here and sit on the couch, turn on the TV and talk over the shows they want to watch, get on their phones (especially my mother who’s a social butterfly) but they enjoy their time together.
Meanwhile I make coffee, serve them some tsipouro (otherwise known as raki or home made rotgut) with nuts. I sit at the table and work on my sculptures or paintings and listen in to their discussions about people I know or don’t know but should know.
I enjoy it.
Being around mom this year has been good. Sure, she still drives me crazy at times, I think its her job, but I’ve also loved just getting to know her. We’d never been close when I was growing up but as an adult I appreciate mom a whole lot more.
Its been nice to hear her stories of life on Paros as a child or as a young woman in Athens and Australia. Even if I’ve heard them 500,000,000 times. Some stories never get old.
At least now she’s driving again so I don’t have to take her everywhere cause driving with her still drives me crazy… every single time we get into a car together she tells me the same stuff, as if I’ve never been here before:
“Turn here. (Yes mom, I know. I’ve been here before. You bring me every year.) Here! Yes, next to that house with the blue shutters. That road leads to Pounda…Where the boats to Antiparos go. (I know mom) That’s where my father’s sister Evgenia used to live when I was a child. (Yes, I know.) You remember Spiridona? (No) He’s her grandson, you used to play with him as a baby. Surely you remember him. (Ummm, no…) Well, he married a girl from Marpissa and has 2 children, one is now studying in Italy, he’ll be a doctor. Pity about the other one, he was never right in the head… but then again, neither was Evgenia. We used to pick on her as kids. (You picked on your aunt?) No, not my aunt Evgenia, her grandaughter, her other son’s daughter. Now turn left after the barn. (Yes, I know. I’ve been here before…) There’s old barba Thodori checking his vines. He’s related to your cousin’s mother through marriage. (I won’t ask which cousin, I have 23 first cousins, countless second cousins…) His brother married Kyriaki, who’s father owned the bakery in the old town, the one next to the shoe shop that became a bar. He got cancer and died last year. (Who? Kyriaki’s husband?) No, the guy who owned the bar. This is the house, stop. (Yes, I know mom. I’ve been here before). Park here. (Yes mom)…”
Ah the joys of family!
But there are stories which I love to hear. About the old man who used to go out drinking and one night he was sneaking in late (or really early) and was taking off his pants quietly when his wife woke up and asked “Why are you getting up so early?”. He replied “I couldn’t sleep” and pulled his pants back on an went out again.
Or the old woman who set the table for her family and told her husband she’s slaughtered a chicken for lunch. The husband said “But did the chicken have 4 legs?” when he saw the meal, and she said “just eat and shut up”… an expression often used in our family when anyone comments on food: just eat and shut up.
Or about the woman who was a ‘working’ girl in a small town on a small island. Everyone knew it and many husbands visited her. Every now and then she’d get pregnant and have a child which she called by the father’s name. No use keeping secrets in such a small place.
And the sad story of the day germans bombed the school, killing the teacher and two children. My mom’s youngest brother was supposed to be in that classroom but he’d been sent to the principals office (sometimes being naughty does pay). Mom said that as children they were all curious and went in to see… she remembers seeing the teacher’s legs sticking out of the rubble. The plane went down in the port and boats rushed out to try to get the crew out. Days later bloated bodies washed up on shore and once again the kids ran down to take a look. Not the best of memories, but kids are curious and mom grew up during a war.
I love hearing about the old days on the island. Mind you, I have some ‘old days’ stories myself since we first came to Paros in 1970 and it was a totally different world back then.
We used to get woken by farmers with their donkeys crying out their wares in the cobblestone streets. One man and his donkey was my favourite and I’d always rush out to say hello and give the donkey, Pitsos, a treat. Another man would come by with goat milk and mom would send us out with pots to put it in and would put it on the stove boil it straight away.
We’d run down to the port and dive off the end of the pier with a ton of other kids. There used to be a small pebble beach next to the pier where mom and my aunts used to swim while we ran and jumped off the end. Back then there were only a few ferries a week, and all ferries to Paros stopped at Syros first. The port was clean and small. Now the beach is under concrete, the pier is huge and dozens of ferries come in every single day. There’s often a queue in the bay, ferries waiting to dock in summer. And traffic is impossible cause there are millions of cars on the island and not enough/wide enough roads, let alone parking. And more rentals are brought in every year for tourists, yet the infrastructure isn’t in place for that much traffic or such a huge rise in population.
Back then very few people lived on Paros all year round, most young people would leave for the cities and work, leaving the old on Paros. Most of our family had moved to Athens and only came to Paros for summer. The streets were quiet. We had quite a few foreigners living here – artists and writers. The hills around Parikia (and everywhere on the island for that matter) were dark at night – no houses.
Nothing like today where there are homes on every single hill and more are going up every day. Progress they call it. I call it destruction of natural beauty, but you can’t stop progress. I’m reminded of the Counting Crows lyrics:
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
Hey now, they paved paradise to put up a parking lot
PS the photos are all prior to 1970.