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Posts Tagged ‘Greek family reunion’

Not only was there moussaka and pastitsio, there was also chicken and sausage, salads galore, pies, cannoli cake, and baklava – there was also the heartwarming realization that the younger generations are now making the recipes of our ancestors and crafting their own delectable dishes as well.

This was my summer’s second familial gathering, this time on my father’s side of the family. When Pam and Spero offered to host a congress of cousins in July, I leapt for joy. Well, of course, I didn’t actually leap. You know the extent of my athletic abilities – I haven’t leapt in years and never voluntarily. I felt like leaping. At any rate, with my two left feet firmly on the ground, I was both grateful and anxious for the opportunity to see cousins I have not seen in quite a while.

When I say cousins, I am referring to the farther reaching limbs of the family tree. We are Greek. The youngest new growth  and the deepest of roots count as cousin! I was well into my teenaged years when I finally realized that I actually had only two aunts by blood – the other forty were cousins; first, second, third – all cousins!. Aunt Helen, Aunt Bea, Aunt Janet, Aunt Stella, Aunt Georgia – these were all my father’s first cousins, and they are just from one limb of the tree – AND I had several Uncle Johns as well.

While many of us reside in the Chicago area, others traveled long distances to attend. Since we last gathered, there has been sadness, illness, challenges and losses, but, there have also been births, accomplishments, milestones and happiness. It was healing, helpful and hopeful to congratulate and console – and be together.

I found it intriguing to listen to or engage in conversations about family occurrences, remembered in as many ways as there are siblings, cousins and in-laws. What we remember, forget, or see from a different perspective contributes to lively conversations, especially when told by some of the best story tellers around!

Here are a few of us who were in attendance. They represent several generations and are a small slice of the wonderful legacy of my generation’s grandfather’s; brave and enterprising souls who crossed the Atlantic as the 19th and 20th century merged.

I did not know my paternal grandfather. He died when my father was a teenager. My father died young as well, when I was in my teens. He loved family. Our house was always a gathering spot, especially on summer weekends. He would have enjoyed Pam and Spero’s home and hospitality. I felt his presence among us and couldn’t help but see so many family traits; the eyes, the sense of humor, the art of conversation.

All in attendance enjoyed good food and warm hospitality, which would not have happened if it were not for the graciousness of Pam and Spero. They opened their door, invited us in, and made this reunion possible. To your health, Pam and Spero, and Ευχαριστώ !

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Family circles

What do you do after lively conversation, tasty appetizers, a shot of Ouzo, and a delicious feast that would make our yiayias proud? What do you do before desserts are brought out accompanied by more lively conversation, pictures and reminisces of all we hold dear?  You put the speaker in the widow, grab hands, and partake in a lively kalamatiano . . .

. . .and so, we did, on Saturday night, around Pam and Spero’s spacious deck.

Hopa!

It has been quite a long while since I  joined hands with family in a lively Greek folk dance. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the little hop steps in the counter-clockwise dance that our grandparents brought with them a century ago.  Taught to them by their parents in the “old country”, our yiayias and papous taught them to their children, who managed, mid-century to pass them on to us.

Can you see me smiling across the internet?

What we share as a family, besides a commonly recognized wicked sense of humor, is a great-grandfather and grandmother. Our grandfathers were brothers. With the exception of a few, most of us knew our grandfathers, our papous, only through a few pictures and family lore. The three brothers settled in Chicago, married and raised families, leaving their parents and siblings in the hills of Sparta, and in other countries. The three brothers all died within a few years of each other.

What we share are the stories our grandmothers told us, in broken English, or our mothers and fathers, our aunts and our uncles; the laughter we heard around kitchen and dining room tables, the baptisms and weddings, the holidays and saints’ day, illnesses and funerals, too.  That circle of life and of family that ties us together, like a folk dance, those steps we share.

Pam, Spero, and Chrissee were gracious hosts, tending to each and every one of us, bringing out food, putting it away, those chores that come with a big crowd of visitors. I am so grateful to have them in our midst.

My cousins and their spouses are the best! They harkened from both coasts and a good many spots in between. So many conversations were going on as this one and that one moved about, sharing their lives and including everyone in the mix. The happy din of family congregating.

Amy and Jennifer were the only offspring of the third generation who could attend this year. I sat back for a few moments and watched them and their husbands (Amy’s of just two weeks) as they interacted with everyone. There were moments when a smile or glance or a gesture tugged and I saw so many other family members coming alive in them. Isn’t it amazing when that happens? I felt a smile welling up deep in my heart. Such lovely young women with wonderful husbands, careers their grandmothers and great grandmothers could not have imagined, and what I perceived as a strong sense of self. My hope and my prayer is that they remember these times and hold them close and that some day, a long time from now, they reach out their hands and clasp them together and bring the others of their generation in to gather, doing the best of folk dances, the dance of family.

To family!

(I spent so much time talking and eating that I didn’t take more than a dozen pictures. A big bowl of fruit, which is so often part of the a Greek meal, managed to pose nicely for me, especially the figs!)

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