Now that I’ve taken a 24-hour detoxification after “The Thing” yesterday, I can reflect and state again for the record, “You can’t change others, you can only change yourself.”
The afternoon started by traversing Athens from south to north to pick up my partner’s brother who didn’t arrange a cab or want to take public transportation, then back south to arrive at his father’s house. We were intentionally late to avoid the pre-“thing” gossip and Q&A session.
I adopted an anti-Boy Scout motto of “don’t be prepared.” That is, just be open to whatever happens.
Some of the usual suspects were present. Remnants from previous years’ hoopla sat tellingly on the table in the form of mismatched plates and glasses. Sixteen of us — half of which were named Konstantinos/a, Giorgos and Christos — were in attendance. Aunt Eleni was talking about her son who died tragically several years ago, as she does in every conversation. There was plenty of wine.
Alterations to the recipe for “the thing” included our plates being pre-loaded in a plausible attempt to get us to eat more food, stereo volume was low key instead of cranked up after dinner, I was not given underwear as a gift by my future father-in-law — am I the only one who finds that strange? — and there was no dancing or breaking of plates to which my partner exclaimed, “Thank God!”
In the absence of these ingredients, others were added: Tension, pushing of agendas and ’80s breakdancing. We won the lottery and had them all at our end of the table.
The tension came from my partner’s father pissed off his usually bubbly girlfriend by saying her potatoes were “xalia’ and wouldn’t eat them, in addition to an ongoing issue over money owed to my partner since October by his ex-boss (aka, cousin), who sat across from us at the table. His cousin also banned me from speaking to him in April (see, “Hypocrite is a Greek word“), but I still embraced him as if nothing happened.
On the pushing front was: An agenda for grandchildren; a heavy handed request that all “the women” gather at my house to take walks, teach me how to cook Greek food and discuss child rearing; and a guilt-laden, teary eyed plea that the family get together for “the thing” every 15 days. Eeee! Now as fun and tempting as it all sounds, and as grateful I am that people want my company, that over there is an outline of me in the wall after I’ve run through it, screaming “HELL NO!” Instead of defacing the building, I nodded and deadpanned an, “Oh, ti oraia. Efharisto, tha doume.”
This was followed by an outbreak of seven discussions between people not sitting next to each other, causing the volume in the living room to quadruple, and someone passing around a badly translated (U.S. English to Greek) breakdancing book from 1985 with instructions and photos of the “mavros.” Thankfully, no one tried to bust a move. 8)
Most fashionable of “the thing” goes to Uncle Christo wearing a grey suit, pink shirt, purple-and-white striped tie, brown socks and tan shoes. He also provided comic relief. Attempting to escape the mayhem with a cigarette on the balcony, we tortured him a bit by turning on the blinking Christmas lights and locking him outside with little Konstantina and her new crying baby toy. He laughed and told us all where to go, as the elders pointed at buttons that were about to pop off his suit jacket from his now bulging stomach.
“The thing” turned awkward for me when my partner went to the kitchen and left me alone with his father. He was talking again about the women getting together to help me with my Greek and cooking, then suddenly became choked up, hiccuped back some tears and started bawling as he called out, “M’agapate!” Since I’d never confronted the same situation with my own father, all I could do was put a reassuring arm on his shoulder and yell for my partner to run out and help me.
With the full range of emotions covered in less than three hours, we took our leave. Luckily, it’s all captured on videotape so we can relive the magic again and again.