Well over a year ago now, my family and I visited my parents' ancestral homes in southern Greece. The visits were tinged with sadness. Since our last visit 13 years ago, my last remaining grandparent had passed away, as had my father. The homes and gardens my grandparents had worked so hard to cultivate were slowly crumbling.
It was this feeling of sadness that prompted me to write the story Shot Glass about my father's ancestral home. The story revolves around the mulberry tree in the front yard (not to mention a shot-gun toting koumbaro, my father's best man...).
When my parents first returned to Greece for a holiday after migrating to Australia, my grandfather used to push us kids (and his young daughter-in-law, our mother) back and forth on the rope swing he had rigged onto the tree. Up in this very same tree, my father and a number of villagers built a bed made out of slats. This is where my mother and father slept all summer.
While my father’s ancestral home now lies nearly in ruins, the mulberry tree still stands tall -- the mulberries sweet and juicy as ever. Our children filled a bag with them, their sticky juice pooling at the bottom.
Despite the ruins around me, there was still life in that stately old tree. I fancied I could feel my grandfather nearby, watching over his great grand-children, who were almost exactly the same age as my brother and I were when we first visited Greece.
The experience of visiting the homes inspired my husband George to take many photographs. We have compiled these into a beautiful book, Stories of My Greek Home, based on three village homes – my father’s home in Vanada, my mother’s home in Petalidi, and my aunty’s home also in Petalidi in the south of Greece.
My hope is that the mulberry tree continues to thrive. Because that's the kind of man he was, I'm reckon my grandfather will make sure that it does.