Living in places like Germany, Jamaica and Guatemala, where there was a critical shortage of Greek people, my mother and father were hard-pressed to find ways to share their Greek heritage.  None of these places were home to Greek Orthodox churches, so my family worshiped in fits and starts wherever there was a cross on the steeple and an English-speaking pastor.

Mom’s method of “keeping Greek” was applied in the kitchen, where she regularly turned out meat-and-rice-stuffed cabbage rolls with egg-lemon sauce; thick home-made yogurt strained through cheesecloth; and silky butter cookies smothered in so much powdered sugar, that if you inhaled as you bit, you risked choking to death on. Music-loving Dad played Greek records, whistling happily along to sickening unrequited love songs, such as “A Bed Made For Two But Slept In By Only One,” or, “I Will Become Basil In Your Window Box So I Can Be Close To You Always.”

At my parents’ frequent parties, while guests were treated to an assortment of canned things on crackers and a steady flow of liquid treats, it wasn’t unexpected to suddenly hear the wailing tones and primal rhythms of Greek clarinets and bouzoukis as martini-bolstered Mom surprised the gathering of staid diplomats and steely policy-makers with her fierce version of a belly-dance.

Belly dancing wasn’t really a Greek thing, but after 400 years of Turkish occupation, the Greeks adopted it, Mom pled ignorance, and since none of the guests were Greek or Turkish, it didn’t really matter.

What did matter, however, was what my cringing dad and my little self (hiding in my nightgown at the top of the stairs) knew was coming next.

Hollering, “But wait! Look what else I can do!” my laughing mother, with the springing agility of a circus poodle and the giddy unselfconsciousness of a happy toddler, stood on her head.


8 comments on “Roots”

  1. Finally another post! How I remember her happily shimming around Yiayia’s living room, arms held high snapping her fingers to Greek rhythms, while we nieces
    and nephews watched with intense amusement. The icing on the cake never
    failed to come: the headstand with the skirt and slip falling around her face. Great memory!!

  2. I can just imagine all of this! And, yes, I can see you at the top of the stairs–especially at the headstand!
    I’ve missed your postings! They are so much fun!

  3. Loved the posting! The photo of your mom is truly iconic! How well I remember her famous head stands!

  4. Woo-hoo! Another demonic retrieval! Crazy funny!

  5. I’ve missed your posts. This one is perfect!

  6. Great post, Susan. You have a knack for bringing us all back to a special place in time.

  7. I think I would have liked those parties!

  8. Oh… Yia! Now she only talks about standing on her head 🙂

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