The Lost Summer

Where I won't be this summer.

I never want to be one of those mothers who rails on and on about what she gave up for her kids (her career, say, or her 22-inch waistline). First, of all, because I think it’s not very nice to put that kind of responsibility on your children, who, let’s face it, didn’t ask to be born. And second, because whenever I hear women complaining that they had to forfeit one thing for the other, I can’t help but think of women who manage to have both a child and a career (and, in some cases, a swimsuit modeling career).

And now I’m about to do exactly what it is that I hate, and complain about something I’ve given up to have this baby: This is the first summer in 22 years in which I haven’t gone to Greece.

Now I know that to most people, that garners as much sympathy as a swimsuit model who has to give up her bikini career and focus on tankinis after the birth of her child–boo-hoo, I have to give up this thing that most people only dream about having. But I’ve worked hard to be able to go to Greece each summer, securing travel-writing jobs that took me there. I gave up a lucrative office job to live in Greece the year I researched my travel memoir, North of Ithaka. And it was always my choice, to lead a not super-renumerative, semi-nomadic life so that I could go to Greece often.

Then I fell in love, which is what I always wanted, and yes, I chose to get knocked up and I am so glad that I did. And I chose to go to Massachusetts for Easter, instead of Greece, so that I could see my US-based relatives, whom I no longer live near. But now we’re approaching the date when my doctors say I can no longer travel, and I’m realizing I’m not going to make it to Greece at all in 2011. And as much as I own my choices to date, and I hope no one ever mentions this blog to Amalia, I am SO sad I won’t be there this summer. Here are the top 10 things I will miss:

Dance Party, Greece.

10.) Priests who were dresses and beards and stovepipe hats. Extra points for said priest on a donkey, or letting holy snakes climb over him, as I once witnessed in the town of Markopoulo on Cephalonia. I also love it on the superhot days, when the priests wear navy blue dresses rather than black. It screams “resortwear” to me.

9.) Homemade wine. Wine so local and quirky it’s neither red nor white, and is served in a plastic water bottle. And you can drink it at lunch and no one cares.

8.) The sun setting in the ocean as kamikaze pigeons try to steal the nuts, potato chips, or other snack I am ignoring, distracted by the sunset.

7.) Little kids with deep voices who can tell you exactly how many times they’ve bathed in the ocean so far this summer, and exactly how many ice creams they’ve had. And the parents of said little kids, who don’t spirit them away when they see us chatting, but say things like, “give a kiss to the nice auntie who loves you.”

6.) Walking from our house in our village to the inn, listening to chirping birds as the sun sets, and watching fireflies (locally known by a term that means “ass-on-fire”) on the return stroll.

5.) Sitting by the ocean, eating fish and throwing the occasional piece of bread into the sea to watch the ensuing feeding frenzy.

The Venetian fortress, Corfu

4.) Stopping for coffee in the shadow of some historic site–the Venetian fortress on Corfu, say, or the Thisseion temple in Athens.

3.) Old people dancing.

Emilio jumping off a rock near Santorini.

2.)Terrorizing my sister by swimming in caves, jumping off rocks, diving off boats, and other activities which, in the US, would require that you sign a waiver first.

1.) Sitting around outside, with my cousins on Corfu, my friends in Athens, or my neighbors in the village, eating some miraculously never-ending supply of treats and listening to everyone chatter away, enjoying the breeze.

Pal-ing around on Mykonos.

Now that hip-hop weekend is over, the short-term rental apartments in our complex have been taken over by a dozen or so gray haired Eastern Europeans, who sit in the courtyard day and night, eating cookies and gossiping in some Balkan language, not my own. One man hasn’t put on a shirt all week. I want to bring them chocolate croissants so they’ll invite me to join them for coffee. I want to take my frozen yogurt out there and try to avoid choking on it when they say something particularly funny. But these are not my beautiful neighbors, just others like them who know how to enjoy a summer afternoon.

When I see the courtyard coffee klatsch, my heart breaks a little more each time. But I’ve promised myself I’ll go to Greece next Easter, to see the poppies and eat roast lamb and introduce Amalia to her home away from home. And when that happens, the lost summer of 2011 will have been worth it.


  1. I got all choked up and sad reading this, but the photos brought back so many wonderful memories.

  2. Oh Eleni, I feel your pain, but I promise you it will all be worth it once little Amalia pops out. Besides, you will appreciate our Ellada so much more when you see it through the eyes of your little one. I’m hoping we get there this summer. The plan is to be there but we have our issues right now that I am unable to discuss on paper at this time. In case we don’t speak before, καλη ελευθερια.

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