There is the classic comparison, between women and fine wine, which claims that both become better with age. I can’t vouch for all women or all wines (I would err on the side that certain types tend to not age so “gracefully”), but I believe such is the case with the Greek woman, the Greek Mother, specifically. Overbearing and meddling as she might be, the Greek Mother may be misunderstood for much of her life, and appreciating her is an art form in and of itself. Did you take tissues? Do you have money? Did you charge your phone? Why aren’t you wearing a jacket? THA KRIOSIS! You don’t need deodorant, it gives you cancer! And you smell delicious. Ah, a mother’s love (read: lack of sense of smell). Maybe it’s not only that she (Mother Wine) is aging well, but in my coming of age, I can appreciate all the nuanced aromas and flavors, which once seemed unpleasant and bitter are now palatable and even enjoyable. I didn’t understand just how wonderful this complexity was until recently. And I’ll admit, I still can’t appreciate it for all its worth, but I guess that’s just how life is sometimes. All we can do is hope that one day we will enjoy that glass of wine, and the numerous daily reminders sent via every technological medium she has recently discovered.
As the years go on, I find myself thinking of all the things Mama was right about. Save for the deodorant thing, she’s been pretty spot-on (trust me, Mom, I will not find my future husband by using my “pheromones”). I blame Dr. Oz for this. I don’t know if he’s actually at fault, but I feel as though he’s only exacerbated Greek Mother Syndrome. Remind me to send him a thank you note. That aside, I find myself at yet another crossroads in life, soon to be a college graduate, (I thought this day would never come), and now more than ever I seem to be turning more and more to Mama for a shoulder to lean on. And, although she often complains about the weight of my head on said shoulder, I gently remind her 1) it was your choice to marry the large-headed man I call father and 2) stop that, you like the attention.
It reminds me of the beloved poem I have committed to my eternal Greek School memory banks: “Mana krazei to paidaki/mana o yios kai mana o geros/mana akous se kathe meros/ah, ti onoma glyko.” I might be missing something, but you get the gist. Manoula mou. It does have a sweet ring to it. And every mother’s day serves as a reminder (because, let’s be honest, we need to be reminded every once in a while) to honor our womb-bearers; forgive them for all the grief they may have given us, and thank them (Thank you, Mama) for all the things they’ve done right. This also includes thanking them for the things we can’t necessarily remember them doing (but have been brought to our attention as they have so graciously taken the time to remind us).
This Mother’s Day I am reminded of the wonderful woman I have in my life, who has served as a role model. Thank you, Oprah. Hah! Just kidding, I love you Mama. But seriously, my mother has been a beacon of positivity which has guided me through the cloudy days, currently through the limbo I like to refer to as “I’m-not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman” (Spears, 2001). This Mother’s Day also marks the first year without the woman who helped shape my own mother in the beautiful, kind woman she is today: my maternal grandmother, affectionately known as Yiayia Tasoula.
It was easy to understand why Yiayia’s house was full of guests. She was a socialite—not like the Paris Hilton type, but you know, the cool yiayia type. Neighbors congregated in the back yard for kafedaki, sitting on their chairs in the middle of the street; it’s the only place you can get the slightest bit of aeraki on a hot summer night in Larisa. Everyone wanted to be her friend. She had a light which emanated from within and a contagious laugh which drew people to her. Her middle name must have been kefi. Even as her body started to fail her, her spirit never dwindled. Her heart wanted to dance even when her limbs wouldn’t allow for it. If you like to dance, the “dance-party-starter” gene quite possibly came from your maternal side; at least for me it has. Haven’t heard of it? Well, you must not have it, then. It’s not so rare, people just don’t usually talk about it, because they’re too busy, you know, getting the party started.
So that was my Yiayia Tasoula, fun and kind and loving. What I wouldn’t do to have one more dance with her, as she bobs her head, huge smile on her face, singing with that beautiful voice! I wish I could take back all those times when I was little I thought it was strange that she used to smell me every time before she would kiss me. I can appreciate it now, she was just taking in my youthful scent (AHA! That’s probably where my mom got it from!). I miss that now. And I also miss her tiropitakia. I know this doesn’t seem as relevant, but I’m convinced, if used properly, that recipe could help bring warring peoples together and make them forget what they were fighting about. Imagine a world without war, where everyone ate feta-filled fried dough. Doesn’t sound so crazy, does it? At 5 foot nothing, Yiayia had a laugh big enough to resonate through the greater part of mainland Greece. Alright, maybe not that big, but it definitely could be heard throughout the greater part of the yitonia, particularly when she was watching her favorite shows. And even in her old age, she never failed to point out nice looking young men to me, saying: “Na mou feres ena oraio palikari.” Forever making me smile.
Although Mama was horrified all those years ago when she first heard me and my pre-teen friends singing “If you wanna be my lover,” there is another Spice Girls’ song which I now leave you with, which hopefully she can enjoy…an ode to mothers all around the world (Spice Girls- Mama), but especially dedicated to my own mamabear. Mama, as long as I’m living, my mama you’ll be! And even though I can’t be with you today, know that I carry you and Yiayia in my heart wherever I go, for always. Happy Mother’s Day!