My aunts and I in Greece on Flickr – Soula on the left and Marika on the right.
As I sit in the airport, thinking about my upcoming trip to Europe, I cannot help to reflect on a story that really affected me the last time I was in Greece. I had heard this story (somewhat) before but it affected me so much since it was now connected to my life. This post has nothing to do with education, but it just a piece of my life that has helped shape who I am today.
Having not been to Greece since I was five years old, I had not seen any of my relatives since I was a child. I was very excited to come back to my dad’s birthplace and see family, while enjoying Greek lifestyle. Alec, my friend, and I had pulled into Astros (where my dad is from) late at night and we were extremely tired. My aunts (Soula and Marika) had been waiting for us and were extremely excited to see my brother and I, especially me since they had not seen me for such a long time (Alec had several opportunities to go back). Immediately, I felt a connection with Soula in some amazing way. I found it strange at first that she would sit beside me and basically rub my throat when she spoke to the others. She spoke no English, and I spoke no Greek, but we had connected in such a wonderful way.
Not sharing the same language, Soula and I spent a few afternoons together at her house and would just sit there and look at pictures. She even helped me tried to call home but since she had a rotary phone, I was unable to use my calling card! It was extremely frustrating and funny to not be able to call during this time but that is a memory that definitely sticks with me.
Every morning that I would go for a run, Soula would be waiting for my return home. She would ask “why” I would go and put myself through such torture, but she would be there with lemonade and fruit, while toweling my hair off to ensure that I was okay. She had taken the same care of me that my mom would have.
One specific morning when I returned, I sat down with my aunts and my brother and watched Soula tell everyone a story while Alec translated. In our family and in Greek tradition, the boys in the family are always named after grandparents. My brother Michael is named after my grandpa on my dad’s side while Alec was named after my grandpa on my mom’s side. That left me as the third boy to be a wild card. Eventually I was named after my Uncle George who died at an early age due to a horrible accident. I had heard the story before through my dad, but never through Soula.
As she talked, my brother Alec started to well up with emotion that I had never seen before. He translated the story of Soula as a young girl, had watched as her brother George had his rifle go off into his stomach when they were home. Not knowing what to do, and panicking, Soula did everything and told us how she tried to “push his guts” back into his stomach. She had said to Alec that on that day, she had lost her brother and knew he would never return (this was in the 1940′s). She then told about the night that we came to Astros late at night, and after all these years (as she continued to rub my throat), her brother had finally returned home. I immediately understood the connection that I had with her and why we had connected in such an amazing way. She had shared that I looked a lot like her brother and had the same distinct Adam’s Apple that he had. It was one of the most amazing and emotional moments of my life.
As Soula is in her 90′s (if not older), I appreciate that I will be able to see her again. That day had really taught me to appreciate my family and how lucky we are, but also to try and enjoy every moment we have one another and appreciate the connections we make with people, as family, as friend, and as educators.
I look forward to Soula seeing her brother come home again.