My heritage is Greek. Half-Greek, actually, on my mother’s side. And I don’t speak more that a few basic words in Greek. So I’m not a “real” Greek, I know. But my maternal grandparents were the only ones I knew, they lived nearby and I was quite close to them both. Their first language was Greek (they also spoke some Turkish) and they were never perfectly fluent in English. In fact, in a roundabout way, the fact that I never learned Greek as a kid is a reason we’re in France this year. That was a reason I thought it important to send the kids to a bilingual school. And since that school is French/English, France was an obvious choice for Shannon’s sabbatical.
I’d been to Greece twice before, the last time was in 1989, a year before Shannon and I got married and the same year my yia yia died. So after such a long time it seemed almost required to make a trip to Greece given that Paris is only a short flight away. Shannon went with me in 1989 and she, too, was eager to reacquaint herself with Greece and, as you’ll see if you continue reading, my family there. And, so, off we went for Le Vacances de Pâque in April.
My family lives in the northern region called Macedonia. This is now also the name of a country that was formed after the dissolution of Yugoslavia (and also the name of a town adjacent to where I grew up) . The Greeks put up a bit of a fuss at the time about the use of the name, but I don’t think it rankles them much at this point. Not that the Greeks have short memories–remember, it’s still Constantinople, 550+ years after the invading Ottoman Empire renamed it Istanbul.
Before heading north we stopped for a few days in Athens where Shannon had never been and I hadn’t been since I was a kid, just a few years older than Jack. And, even better, my Mom was able to come with us! My Mom has rare occasion in the US to speak Greek so she’s a bit rusty. And she tried a few times with Greek restaurant proprietors in Paris (yes, they’re everywhere) and stumbled a bit. There must of been something about hitting the homeland, though, because her Greek was incredible while we were there. Not just tourist Greek, which we need in Athens, but talks with the relatives and even cracking some jokes around the dinner table. But first….