All posts filed under: Home Features

Becoming

The first fluency I lose when I do not soak in a language every day is intimacy. I become stiffly polite, reverting to the formal ‘you’: σας in Greek, usted in Spanish. The words for oppression and bureaucracies, on the other hand, are the last to abandon me.

Estranged tongues

Naming ghosts of patriarchy and misogyny was a feminist project to which I have committed my life with little hesitation or regard for propriety (ever the fear raised to caution people away from uttering powerful words). Except, somewhere along the way, I became more comfortable exporting this project to other domains rather than finding the words for it in my homeland. The same can be said for tolerating all other manners of abuse–racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, xenophobia–for which the words felt foreign or the battles felt like they were someone else’s to fight. Is that not a form of complicity in oppression, disguised under the banner of foreignness?

Call You By Your Name

(With thanks to Andre Aciman, for a variation of the title.)  “Very healthy, we believe you. A girl, though? Impossible! This family only has boys.” That was, allegedly, my parents’ reaction upon learning a very healthy baby girl would enter their world. My mother took great pride in that being the last time the label ‘baby’ was attached to me. “You were Roxani from the womb,” she insisted. This is the story of a name and, inevitably, of the stories we tell ourselves. Many Greeks name their children after the grandparents, a game that invites the kind of social gymnastics that need a flowchart to explain: Which set of grandparents goes first? Do the living or the dead ones have priority? What about if you have multiple children? Or just one? What about your siblings’ children? What if–gasp–you don’t like your parents’ or in-laws’ names? What if–further gasp–you just want to name your children something other than what their grandparents are called? Ρωξάνη. For a little baby (fine, a huge, 10-pound baby), my grandmother’s majestic name felt …

Our honest places

It is the smell that catches you first. You open the front door gently, a skill you learned when you were 15 and tried to glide into your house without anyone noticing you are wearing blush. You didn’t know then that mothers can detect makeup on their daughters with infrared vision, even if the teen magazines swear that it’s a “natural neutral look.” But you did know just how to turn the key so the door doesn’t squeak and which tiles to step on so you do not wake up the whole house. This is how you still enter your childhood home, even though your cheeks can shimmer without inspection.It is always the smell. It does not emanate from the people. It is steeped in the place. You have left and returned here before, but you always somehow forget about the smell. It escorts you from room to room. You feel larger than life and play Alice in Wonderland with the objects of your childhood. Were the shelves always quite so low? Were the curtains …

Hereditary travel neuroses of a Greek childhood

Things I learned in Greece: Never rush your coffee, summer is everything, always chase the dust. This is my last morning in the United States for some time and I have spent it shaking my head at dust. Let me explain. Ever since I was a child, I could never sleep the night before a big journey. “A big journey” then meant a car ride from Thessaloniki to Larissa, 2 hours away, where my father’s family lived. I prepared for those trips for days, lining up all my stuffed animals, deciding which of them get to go on this trip, making packing lists (for them, not me, because the beauty of being six years old was that I could live in a single pair of shorts all summer), writing up itineraries (again for them because, um…), and packing car snacks. In the summer, my aunt Mina would move from her home in scorching hot Larissa to the seaside town of Platamonas. At least two weeks before my family descended on Platamonas to join aunt Mina, …

Poem on the wall

The last thing in our Jerusalem apartment, and the last photo I took in Jerusalem: poem on the wall. I am on the moving walkway at Ben Gurion airport in a knit sweater, a leather jacket, and high heels. It is 37 degrees Celsius out and I am leaving little pieces of myself behind in Israel in the form of nostalgia-filled droplets of sweat. It is the oldest trick in the travel book: Everything that will weigh down a suitcase must be worn. If sentimentality had gotten the better of me, I would also be wearing the wooden desk that previously sat in the corner of our bedroom and the vanilla chai mix we had to leave behind. “You will not feel like we are truly leaving until the internet is gone,” Elijah joked. He was right. I took it upon myself to navigate the infamous Israeli bureaucracy to cancel our connection, in the hope that a potential negative experience on the eve of our departure would perhaps lighten the heavy heart boarding the plane. …

Crumbs of home

It was about a year ago that he came home with that lamp. The bed was my domain at the time in the home that was never really home. I woke up every day, willing my ribs to heal from the accident, willing for some beautiful light to surprise me through the window. I spent most of my time in that home resisting permanence, fearing that if I exhaled, unpacked and owned anything, I would be tied to that life, the pain of recovery, and the desperate stagnation of immobility. I frowned when he brought the lamp, resenting it and its little blue hat for anchoring me. A year later. The body is healed and longing for permanence. There is a home — home home. Glorious light filters in through the gauze curtains every morning. “Oh my gosh, would you look at this light!” he says in his best imitation-of-Roxanne voice, but I know he is in awe of it too. We have bought plates – 18 of them. We barely have 18 friends here, …