Monday, December 11, 2017

"The dead, the gentle dead, who knows?"

Artemisia Callas

"The dead, the gentle dead, who knows?" John Shade
A true anecdote

Yesterday we invited three special sets of friends over for dinner. We were inspired. We spent several days actually preparing what I think was a pretty splendid table: we assembled two glass casseroles of Spanakopita and two of Boureki (a special Cretan dish) on Friday. Shopping Saturday and Sunday we cooked up Chicken Kapama in the morning and steamed a large pot of romano beans with dill. Jan cooked up gingerbread from scratch (with whipped cream for dessert) and of course there were hors d'oevres and a splendid salad dished up by Jan.

The entrees were all classic Greek dishes I copied as faithfully as I could from my mother's recipes. I was pleased with the result and I think she would have been. Our guests seemed to enjoy the dinner and were very complimentary. We really had a wonderful evening, I think. It wasn't till they left I realized they were all Jewish (and probably didn't realize that their fellow guests were too)--and since we're on the eve of Hanukah, which of course is a commemoration of unpleasant Greek-Jewish animosities, I realized the meal was a sort of atonement. My mother actually grew up in the Jewish neighborhood (ghetto is a bit of an exaggeration) of old Chania (my grandfather was uber-progressive and detested prejudice--the houses in that neighborhood were a tad cheaper--why not economize?). She often told me she'd learned to cook from her Jewish neighbors who became close friends, so there was an added layer of meaning to the evening, perhaps...

We were content and went to bed exhausted (cooking, cleaning up, fun evening). I woke up abruptly when I heard noise in the kitchen. I was mystified to see a familiar figure at the kitchen sink--my ghostly mother washing up some plates. I was not so much startled as thrilled--I hadn't seen her after all for more than a decade since she'd passed away! I wondered if she were a ghost--her figure was silvery but substantial--and she was wearing her nightgown as she would at home. I realized I was on my knees and reaching to hold her hands to kiss them when I  woke up "in fact" with my eyes full of tears.

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