Tag Archives: family

Working the field.

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Sunday morning my brother and I trekked out (well, not actually trekked – we drove in the comfort of my car) to my aunt’s olive grove for an olive-pickin’ day.  I don’t know much about olive trees and their care, but from what I was told they are a relatively low-key crop to take care of.  You water the trees throughout the year and you gather a crew for a few days in the winter (such as this lovely January) to pick the olives.

The process is relatively simple.  You lay a big plastic tarp underneath the tree and you use a plastic “rake” to scrape down all the branches of the olive tree.  Once you gather enough olives on the tarp you slowly move all the olives to a big sieve to separate as many branches and leaves as you can from the olives.  Then you can sack your olives up, take them to an oil-pressing factory and voila!  You have fresh olive oil!

 

When one branch is raked, ten more branches appear right behind it.

My brother (left) and cousin hard at work.

 

Anyways, I hope by this point y’all are still awake.  It might sound boring to many people, but here in Greece agriculture is a big part of people’s lives.  And let me tell you, Sunday I was re-introduced to the idea of “back-breaking” work.  But there’s also a joy in getting your hands dirty and diligently going through the same motions all day.  With the sun shining on your back and nothing but the sounds of scraping branches and falling olives, you really get a sense of connection to nature.  To quote my mother: “When your hand touches the earth, your soul is at peace.”  There’s a brief window of time when your mind is clear, focused on the task at hand and you really do feel at peace.  All the trivial bullshit that so often inundates us at work is nowhere to be found. You breathe in the clean air, you feel your body moving and everything in the world is fine.  For me, working in the field is also a way to connect to family.  After all, this was the type of work that my great-grandparents, my grandparents and my parents grew up doing.  This was the type of work that my family survived on throughout years of war, famine and poverty.  To gather early in the morning, work together as family, eat lunch in the field and watch the sun set as you peer through the tree branches is pretty much my family history. It’s an honor to be able to continue it on.

The highlight of the day was my grandmother, who at 76 years old still has the cojones to last almost an entire day picking olives.  Go grandma!  We started work at 9 a.m. and at 3:30 p.m. she passed on her rake to me, laid down on the tarp and took a quick cat nap amongst the olive groves.  This is a woman who could be sitting in a chair and she loses her breath.  But put her in a field and she’ll start dancing.  And I love how her hands are so chubby they look like little bread loaves.

 

Sieving olives like a maniac. And yet her chubby little hands are so happy to be doing that.

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Gramps.

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Nine years ago today my grandfather passed away.

He was a man of conviction; a man of his word. He was a man whose name is still respected.  He could be neurotic, authoritative, demanding and bossy, but he was also very sweet and funny – an imperfect person, just like the rest of us.

He was a man who appreciated, if not demanded,  honesty and straightforwardness.  He took care of his family, and he loved them all – but he was also the person who would shoo the grandkids back to their parents when they got to be too much for him.

As a child, I remember the countless times he took us for swimming in the morning, packing all his grandkids in the back of his truck, assigning us to snail-collecting duty.  See, we would collect these little sea snails so he would boil them and eat them with ouzo before lunch – that was a true “old-school” food treat, a descendant from the years of poverty that he grew up in. When I washed the dishes for my grandma he would sneak up behind me, dentures in hand and graze them across my shoulder, effectively scaring the living daylights out of me. He loved to do things like that.

In the later years of his life, he would spend most of his time at home, due to pains from rheumatoid arthritis. In the summer afternoons he would sit under the front awning in his summer pajamas  (or sometimes in just his pajama pants – always a sight to remember…), drinking his greek coffee, smoking and playing with his prayer beads, the komboloi.  In the evening he would watch his regular soap operas while drinking his much-loved ouzo. He was the only man I knew who could drink half a bottle of ouzo and not get anywhere near drunk.  The man could hold his liquor.

I spent a summer with him when I was 19 years old. During that summer I would sit out in the awning mechanically going through an aerobics routine that I had learned by heart.  You know, I was playing the music in my head, so I basically looked like a crazy person who was aerobicizing to the silence.  My gramps would sit and watch me and joke around: “You know, if you keep jumping like that on the cement floor you’re gonna crack it.”

I miss you and love you Pappou Argiri.

Family wedding…a photo story.

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Ah, the joys of a wedding/baptism combo…  I cannot tell you how absolutely awesome it is to have to sit through an Orthodox religious ceremony…much less two ceremonies, back to back.   You’re essentially listening to a priest moaning some indecipherable crap for two hours.  The only shining light in this situation was that the church was so tiny all the guests lounged in the courtyard enjoying the evening breeze.  I guess there is a God!

The blessed event that I’m referring to is the second wedding of my cousin Thanos and the baptism of his baby. The bride wore white even though she and Thanos have been married for almost a year.  The first time the bride was visibly pregnant – I guess she really wanted to see herself skinny and in a wedding dress.

It’s just a bunch of bullshit to me.  From what I gathered,  the whole affair was orchestrated simply so the bride can wear a proper wedding dress and play the role of the blushing bride.  When you ask the groom “So, are you happy?”, his answer shouldn’t be: “Yeah, sure, well you know, it just had to get done.”  Better them than me, is what I say.

So an occasion like this — whether your heart’s in it or not — requires some preparation…specifically with my seaweed pore-cleansing mask.  Behold!

Seaweeding myself into a proper face.

I mean, really, do I not look like I grabbed a handful of poo and just smeared it all over my face?   Menacing look comes free of charge.

Of course all this preparation has its desired results:

Sisters are doing it for themselves!

This picture says so much:  My brother-in-law, Takis, is not really into the picture; my sister, clearly is; I’m apparently the victim of someone’s bad photo skills and my mom, once again, can’t keep her eyes open to save her life:

The epitome of an awesome photo.

The epitome of an awesome photo.

I know I’m biased, but isn’t my brother just the handsomest?

Calvin Klein model in the making...

There were some nice moments in the wedding…or rather, the reception afterwards.  Here’s a sweet moment with my 12-year-old nephew.  Can you tell we’re the first ones to arrive at the reception?

A serving of kokoretsi always makes my day.  For those who don’t know, it’s lamb offal wrapped with lamb intestines and cooked slowly on a spit.  Delicioso! That lamb didn’t die in vain…

Half eaten cause it's just so delicious!

And here’s the happy expecting couple, my sis and her husband. I’m pretty sure with both of them being so tall their kid will be born tall enough to just walk out of my sister’s vag.

Baby-making machines

I’ve never been the best photographer, in fact I’m the opposite of good, but I still love this photo because you can still see the joy in my grandma’s face as she’s dancing.

I feel like daaaancing, YEAH!

We ate, we drank, we shit-talked.  Overall it was an ok night.  By 2:30 a.m. I was soaked in sweat and almost all my face bronzer had been efficiently wiped off my face.  Dancing around in circles can really take a toll on ya, believe me.  The best part of the evening was the maid of honor/godmother.  I mean, do I really need to say anything?

Identity has been hidden to protect the innocent.

The hair…the horror!  She looks like somebody stuck her in a clothes dryer and POOF!  this hair came out.  I was on a mission ALL night to get a decent picture of her.  I literally have maybe 20 pictures of her from the side, the back, from far away.  I was prairie-dogging, people.  One minute I’m sitting in my chair eating, the next minute I’m rapidly turning on my camera and getting up out of my chair trying to snap a picture.  It wasn’t my high point, let’s just say that….

Went to bed at 3 a.m., woke up at 7:30 a.m. to get to work.  I’m surprised I’m able to even write this post, download the photos and put it all together.