family

Memory Game

So mum has had her house on the market for a while, and although I do think it’s time for her to move out [nudge nudge, mum], I find myself torn about how I feel about the actual SALE of the house. I know that it’s not the only house I have ever lived in. I think we moved in when I was two. and I don’t even live there right now. I live with Jenge [where mum is moving in]. But I still feel very attached to the house.

It doesn’t have a garage. It’s not open concept. There is no master bath. And yet, I’m very fond of it. I grew up there, and it’s the only house I remember. And there’s my other problem. Memory. I remember falling off my bike and pushing said bike home, lower lip trembling, leg and arm bleeding and seeing the house up ahead of me. I remember coming home from trips and being so glad to see it. Heck, even coming home from days at work or at the university. And then there’s my dad. I remember him in that house.

Intellectually, I realize that the sale of the house doesn’t mean I’ll forget. I know my memories are not somehow tied up in the wood and concrete that make up that building. But I can’t help but feel as though they are. As if having that house there somehow solidifies my gray matter.

Jessi, at work, says she has no similar feelings about the house her parents live in because she moved alot when she was a kid. So I guess it’s because I only know that one house that I feel that way.

And like I said, I know it’s not rational. It’s not logical. My memories are what they are regardless of what external cues are there. And it’s impractical to think that you can keep every place you live and go back whenever you want.

But that doesn’t keep me from feeling…. nervous? sad? morose?

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Remembering Carmie

Uncle Carmie died the same year as my dad. Carmie died in June, after Mary in May, but before Dad, in August. And sometimes I feel like Carmie’s death was eclipsed by Dad’s. Carmie lived in Cape Breton, and the photo above is a picture of his bungalow. I remember trips there as a kid, and we would go swimming in the lake. I was terrified of Jelly Fish. There are train tracks close by and we would put pennies on them and then hunt them down after the train had squished them.

The last time I went there, before I went for the funeral in 2006, I was 13. And surly. And in a bad mood. All summer. I was away from my friends for the summer, and not happy about it. I would glower at people when they tried to be nice to me. And Carmie would try hard not to laugh and say “Ah, the look.” And I was mad, so mad that he wasn’t affected by my obviously surly gaze! In fact, he seemed to find it really funny!

Looking back now, I laugh at my younger self. And I think that I’m pretty lucky my Uncle was amused by it instead of being hurt, or annoyed.

Mum and I had been planning a trip to Cape Breton for the fall of 2006. I was finally going to see the fall colors of east. And then Carmie died, so we went in June. And I was really, really mad at myself for not having gone back sooner. A classic case of waiting too long, thinking you have more time, etc etc. You know? I was really sad I didn’t get to see Carmie. Sit on his enclosed porch and just hang out.


Stranger in a Strange Land
My dad died in August. He was Greek and growing up, we’d learn a bit of Greek here and there. To be sure, I can tell you that I love baklava and tiropita. I can say ‘hello, how are you’ and ‘I am fine’ – y’know, the basics. But I was definately raised to be Canadian. Dad was Greek Orthodox, although he wasn’t what you would call a religious man. My mum is Roman Catholic, and we were raised Catholic and went to Catholic school. But when Dad died, we wanted to give him a Greek Orthodox funeral, but also for his sisters, who are VERY religious. It seems like everytime I go to visit Thea Doxa (my aunt) , she’s fasting for something or other. Thea Freida (another aunt) who lives in Greece, used to go to Grandma’s grave everyday after she died – I think for years. And when in Greece, we had candles regularly slapped into our unknowing hands and we would light them and then place them in the little monument, or in the sand at a church – not really knowing what we were doing or why.

So when Dad died, we called the Greek Orthodox priest and asked him to reccomend a funeral home and we relied on him and Dad’s Greek friends until Doxa and Freida could fly in from Greece (where Doxa was visiting when Dad passed away). And now it seems like everytime I turn around, I’m learning more than I knew before. There has been many ‘funeral’ type memorial services for Dad. Obviously we had a funeral, then we had one forty days after he died and there is another one today, for the six month mark. Before the forty day service, Doxa invited us over for the evening. Jenge and I went, assuming we’d have Coke, sit and mix with the Greek ladies and then go home. But at 8 o’clock that night Doxa said, “As soon as the other ladies get here, we start.” Jenge and I looked at each other, eyebrows clearly saying “Start what?”

And then the Greek ladies arrived. Buckets of boiled wheat were brought out and dumped on a tablecloth on the table. A picture of my dad was brought out, a candle and some incense was lit. Tupperware containers with crushed almonds, slivered almonds, crushed peanuts, breadcrumbs, golden raisins, regular raisins, parsely, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and sesame were lined up. They were put in our hands and we were instructed (in half english half greek) to put it all on the wheat in the shape of a cross – three times each if possible). Jenge and I had no idea what we were doing! Then, when all the fixins were added, the Greek ladies picked up the table cloth and we mixed it by flipping the mixture over and over, ‘tossing’ it back and forth, using the tablecloth for leverage. It smelled wonderful and was tasted carefully by the ladies several times, with orders of “More cinnamon” “More almonds” “Get the rest of the anise” shouted out. There was lots of yelling and they argued, Greek style, about what was needed. Then it all got put into a white linen lined bucket, and another serving on a silver tray. It was carefully covered in granulated and powdered sugar, and then there was a flurry of discussion about how to decorate them. The bucket was painstakingly measured to find the exact center and then a cross was made with white covered almonds. Silver candies were placed all around, and then the edges were carefully wiped with brushes to dust off any stray powdered sugar.

I had just helped make my first Kollyva – or as Chant called it, Funeral Trail Mix. The Kollyva is set up at the front of the church during the memorial service and people can come up and place candles in the big bucket. Then, at the end of church, the candles are lit, and we each get our own candle as well while we stand in the pews. Afterward, the candles are all blown out and the men take the Kollyva to the gym (the community center is attached to the church) and mix it all up in a big bin. It gets dolled out in little paper pastry bags and everyone takes some, and a spoon and then sits around and has coffee, greek cookies and for the family, a shot of Metaxa.

Last night, we went back to Doxa’s and did it all over again, Ann and my newphews in tow. And although I knew what to expect this time, I’m still in a sort of weird wondered state about what it all means. There’s a very strong sense of community, of gathering. And everyone has to put their two cents in. There was a big meal afterward, with tiropita, spanikopita, salad, ribs, fish, bread, cheese and wine. I’m not sure, but I think we’ll do it again at the one year mark. It’s a good chance for me to practice my Greek and to make sure that I keep in touch with my dad’s side of the family, now that he’s gone. In a really weird way, now that he’s died, I feel like I’m learning more about what it meant for him to be Greek than I learned when he was alive. I guess I always thought I’d have more time. But then, don’t we all.

When you need someone to tell you like it is!
We all need that someone in our lives who isn’t going to take any crap, isn’t going to fall for your excuses, and isn’t going to let you sugar coat it anymore!
For me, I’ve got two peeps who fit this bill. They are 7 and 4 years old. They are my nephews.
The other day I was driving the 7 year old to skating lessons. I had put a towel down on the backseat to keep him from getting covered in dog hair, as my car is also a doggie taxi for Portia. I also commute for about two hours a day, so I have coffee cups, water bottles, sandwhich bags, candy wrappers, some grocery bags, maybe a shopping catelogue or two, an umbrella and several old travel mugs in my car (NB – this doesn’t include the contents of my trunk – whole other blog).
When I opened the backdoor for my nephew I saw him look in the car and pause. I jokingly said, “Auntie Gita has a lot of stuff in her car, eh?”
He turned to face me and said, “Yeah, looks like a lot of junk!”
Truth hurts, mes amis. Truth hurts.