This past summer the family visited Greece. It had been twelve years since my last visit with my older daughter. My younger daughter had never been to Greece so we decided to pack the bags and head from Hellas.
However, one of my conditions for going was that my younger daughter was required to come with me to see the majestic Parthenon and the other buildings built by our ancient forefathers on that magical hill known as the Acropolis. It’s like Mecca for the Greeks. At least once in your life you need to pay homage to that wonder of the world. Also, I required that she take the obligatory photo that every Greek family has of their kids in front of the Parthenon. I have one of me in 1962, my older daughter in 2005, and now the younger one is there in 2017. Someday their kids will be photographed in front of the Parthenon, and so on and so on. It never ends.
We first went to Chania and Elounda in Crete and it was just fabulous. We saved Athens for the last two days to visit my cousin, Valia and her wonderful family, and see the sites. The day came and I told my daughter we were leaving early in the morning – 8:00 AM. Not too bad, except when your sixteen and on vacation. Early for them is 1:00 PM but after I explained that it will be 90 degrees at 9:00 AM, and getting hotter, and the only shade up on the Acropolis was a small sacred olive tree (actually, it’s not there anymore, but she didn’t know), she was up and ready to go. Actually, she was forced to be up and ready. If you have kids, you understand.
We got there at 8:30 in the morning and I admit it was hot. But we started climbing the walk-way and half-way up my daughter turned to me and said, “I’m tired.” So I did what every good Greek father would do. Told her to shut up and then explained how the Parthenon was built and it was so amazing how they dragged the material up this damn hill to build that beautiful edifice, just so thousands of years later we could walk up these same pathways to see what they accomplished! So don’t complain about walking a few feet. Isn’t it great being a dad?
We made it to the Propylaea, basically the entrance way. Back in 2005 we climbed straight in. This time they make you come in from the right side. They’re working on the front. There are signs everyone. Do not touch the marble. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign – some of you out there in Greekland know what I’m talking about.
Seeing those signs, now I understand where my parents, my aunts and uncles, and all the relatives got the idea how to cordon off that one room in the house where us kids were never allowed to play and it was only for guests. You know that room? It had the plastic slip covers on the furniture. The “museum room,” we called it. This was passed down from generation to generation and it started with the Ancient Greeks and the Parthenon. Don’t sit, don’t touch, don’t look!
We go through and then, like Mt. Everest rising in the morning sun, the sight of the Parthenon hits you like a cold bucket of water – stunning. Then my daughter said, “Why is there so much scaffolding around it?” The Hindenburg just burned and crashed. I’m looking at the columns that bulge a little in the middle, and the top tilts in so the line of sight makes it look straight and she sees the scaffolding. You have to see the forest through the trees, I tell her!
Back in 1962 I have film of me at four years old walking inside the Parthenon. Today, we couldn’t get closer than twenty feet of the building let alone touching it! But it’s still magnificent and I’m just standing there in awe. My daughter wants to take those pictures that you hold your hand up looking like your holding up the Parthenon. Meanwhile, I’m still in awe. I’m overlooking the City of Athens from the area where the flagpole is, admiring the site and looking down the outside walls trying to imagine how attackers would scale these walls. My daughter nonchalantly says, “There’s a lot of churches down there, Dad.”
I start explaining to her about the Parthenon. How it was originally painted in bright colors. How it was damaged later in a fire. It later became a church then a mosque then the Venetians, when bombing the Turks up on the Acropolis, hit the Turkish ammo stored inside the Parthenon and it blew up. Then Lord Elgin stole the statutes and other things and shipped them to Great Britain and the Brits still haven’t returned them. She looks at me and says, “Yeah, I can read it on Wikipedia.”
I was sort of devastated. I love the Acropolis and the Parthenon. I love talking about it and trying to visualize how it looked like when it was first built. But my daughter was interested in her iPhone and the latest postings on Facebook. At that point, I was sure civilization as we know it was doomed.
After a little more time, we left. We got into the cab and I was crushed. We rode in silence. I realized my daughter didn’t share my love and passion for the ancient temple on the hill and what it meant not only to the Greeks, but the world. She didn’t see it. She couldn’t see it through her modern technology. Then she tapped my arm and said, “You know, dad? That was actually cool. You were right. That place was amazing. I took a lot of great pictures and someday, when I have kids, I’ll make sure to take them to the Parthenon, and I’ll take their picture in front of it just like we did.” Then she started showing me the photos she took.
I smiled and there was a tear in my eye. Civilization was now saved by a sixteen year old.
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