The book is a compilation of stories as told to me by my Greek immigrant mother-in-law and father-in-law. It’s heartwarming, entertaining, and sometimes hard to believe what they went through growing up in their mountain village in Greece.
You can order the book through most bookstores. Here are some links if you want to order it online:
Here’s a short quiz to determine if you’ll connect with this book:
- Do you like memoirs and biographies? Do you like my style of writing? How could you not?
- Have you ever met someone and thought that their life adventures should be written down by someone someday? Yiayia and Papou had adventures I could not let go unheard.
- Do you connect with stories from the Old Country? Crazy tales of how things used to be? Yiayia and Papou have RIDICULOUS STORIES, you guys. They lived as goat herders! They sheared goats and made yarn out of that goat hair and turned that goat hair into clothing and blankets. And that’s the normal sounding stuff.
- Do you appreciate family? I extricated stories from Yiayia and Papou’s past and wove in the current-day version of them as parents and grandparents. They are hilarious and loveable.
- Do you love good food? Yiayia gave up several recipes and they’re the real deal.
If you answered yes to any of the above, you’ll like the book. Pretty damn sure. You might as well just order it now.
In case you’re still on the fence, here’s a short excerpt from the book and a bonus picture that I didn’t include in the book itself. I tried to choose something that would give you a feel for what the book is like without giving away all of the juicy bits. So here you go:
LEAVING THE VILLAGE
After several years working for Papa in his caffeneios, Tom got a job at a restaurant in the Plaka, near the Acropolis. “This place was a five-star restaurant; it had great food.” The clientele at the restaurant was elite. “I used to get great tips from Prince Constantine before he became King. I also saw Kirk Douglas. He signed quite a few autographs. I got one autograph my whole life. I gave him my tablet, that I used to take orders on, and he used up the entire tablet with his signature. I still have the autograph he gave me somewhere.”
“I definitely want to see that,” I say as I sip on a glass of wine in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. If she ever wants a glass of wine, she always asks me to drink with her. She knows I’ll accept. She doesn’t want to drink alone.
“There was a photographer from the local paper there,” Tom continues, “and I asked him to take a picture of me with Kirk Douglas and his wife.” According to Tom, he was standing a step or two above them and the photographer, so he wouldn’t appear so short in comparison, and the photographer ended up cutting off the top of Tom’s head in the picture. “I thought if I went up one step we’d be even,” Tom says, holding his hands up to indicate that their heads would be the same height.
“What kind of photographer cuts off the top of someone’s head?”
“He working for a big newspaper, too!”
“He really didn’t care about you in the picture.” I point out the reality of the situation.
“No, no, no.” Tom acknowledges this is probably true.
“Yea, I want to see that too,” I tell him.
“Pou einai?” Glykeria asks Tom. Where is it?
“I have no clue, mori, I never look for those things,” he says. “Up until recently, I had it in my wallet. The autograph. Until I came here, a few years ago,” he says. “Kinda worn out.”
“Until you came HERE?” I ask, pointing to the floor. “Here” as in the U.S. forty years ago or “here” as in this house I’m standing in that you’ve lived in for four?
“Here, yeah,” he says, copying my motion and pointing to the dark wood floor.
“You carried it around in your pocket all that time?” For decades?
“Yeah. Since 1969. Since I got the original card. I mean my social security number card. It’s in my wallet.”
His social security card and Kirk Douglas’s photograph. His two prized American possessions.
“I took it out two, three times maybe,” he says, referring to the social security card. “Once I memorized it, never take it out,” he says before adding, “I hope that’s still there.” He laughs, takes a sip of his coffee and turns back to his book.
“Now she got me think that,” he says a minute later, putting his book down.
“She got you thinking about what?” I ask him.
“My pictures.” He stands up and walks out of the room.
“Pege nah vre ti photographia,” Glykeria says. He went to find the pictures. “I knew where they was before, but when we move here, I don’t know where he puts it,” she says.
Glykeria and I sip on our wine and from the kitchen we can hear him rummaging through boxes.
“I gotta go get a new one before he dies.” Tom enters the kitchen, laughing and holding a small piece of paper in his hands.
“No way! You found it?!” He’s been talking about this autograph for years but I hadn’t ever seen it, so I figured I never would.
“Get some tape! Get some tape!” my mother-in-law shouts, as she runs to get the scotch tape herself.
“Worn totally out,” Tom says, inspecting it. It was folded in half, and then half again, and when he opens it up the paper rips across the seams and there is a hole in the center. “Worn totally out,” he says again as he scans it. “9-11-1964,” he says.
“I got it! I got it! Let me tape!” Glykeria says. I move the wine glasses out of the way so they don’t get tipped and stain the paper.
“That’s okay, mori. That’s okay. No big deal. But it’s worn out. I better get Kirk Douglas now. I think he’s still alive yet,” he snickers.
Glykeria grabs the autograph, turns the paper over and lays a strip of tape along the back seam.
“Wow,” I say. “That’s awesome.” I’m still amazed that he has this after all those years. “Wait, 9-11 . . . on your birthday?” I look at Glykeria incredulously. September 11th is her birthday.
“No, months are backwards,” he says. Ah. November 9th.
“Well, let’s take a photo of it,” I insist. My husband snaps a photo of the front and back of the paper that once lived in my father-in-law’s pad of guest checks.
“Take a picture with it, Tom!” I hand him the autograph. He’s got a huge smile, something rare when a camera is being shoved in his face, and he holds up the paper.
“No, no!” Glykeria yells out.
What the hell? She’s been just as excited as I am about his autograph until this moment.
“You got a hole in your shirt!” A cigarette burn, it looks like to me, on the side of his stomach.
“I’ll cover the hole,” Tom appeases her. “I’ll cover the hole with the autograph. The only one I ever got!” He puts the paper with the hole in it over the hole in his shirt and his smile gets even wider.