twenty-two when she left her island and
followed her husband to
It was 1954. She brought the two little
boys with her. How their grandmother
cried. The younger one was a devil, just
leamt to walk. She had to keep him tied to
something most of the time to stop him
falling overboard. The older one. Taki,
would do what you told him. In the village
his grandfather would sometimes put him on
the table in the kafenion.
first clearing away the ouzo and the
ash-trays, and Taki would do a shy,
smiling, hopping little dance while the
old men laughed and clapped time.
they finally reached the docks at Port
down to see her husband waving wildly up
at her, his eyes full of tears. Her
brother had climbed a tower next to the
deck and was throwing streamers and sweets
to the children. Taki unwrapped one and
popped it into his mouth. It seemed they
now belonged to another world.
first few days were very happy. All the
friends and relations threw parties for
them and there was endless eating, dancing
and laughing. Taki and his little brother
got sick of being squeezed and kissed.
They moved into a big terrace-house in
three other families lived.
her husband and the two boys shared a
bedroom, and the kitchen and bathroom were
communal and always busy. The street
outside was always noisy and full of cars.
Taki had not seen many cars before. It was
summer and in the evening everyone would
sit on the balcony and talk about home.
while the cars streamed past below.
she began work in the factory where her
sister-in-law had a job. packing
chocolates. She worked the morning shift,
Angela worked the afternoon shift, and
they would look after each other's
two were a little older than Taki and had
learnt some English at school. They took
him there after the summer holidays. Taki
was just six. His cousins took him to a
room and the teacher spoke to him and they
left him. The teacher smiled at him and
pointed to a chair. Some children behind
him were pushing him and laughing at
him. The teacher went on and on.
unintelligibly. One by one the children
came out to the teacher's desk and she
spoke to them and then wrote in her book.
"Taki!" He heard his name. the
first word he had recognized in an hour,
and jumped. She beckoned to him. He
approached her; all the children were
spoke to him. He stared at her, his dark
eyes frightened. She spoke again, very
slowly: "What is your address.'"
His eyes filled with tears. A brief
expression of exasperation passed across
her face. "Wonderful", she
thought. "What am I supposed to do
with this one?" She motioned him back
to his seat. The children behind him
sniggered. He sat very still, his moiith
compressed, staring straight ahead,
refusing to cry. Another hour wore on
while the teacher read to them. The other
children liked the story. They laughed
unexpectedly and sometirnes.gasped. Taki
looked at the asphalt playground outside.
He looked at the teacher, her mouth working
and making strange, slurred sounds. He
began to feel panicky and frightened. He
wanted to go to the toilet, Suddenly he
had to go to the toilet. He got up and
stumbled towards the door. "Taki!"
He kept going. The teacher's hand was on
his shoulder and pushing him back. He sat
down helpless and confused as the warm
urine began to seep through the material
of his shorts and run down his legs,
spreading out in a pool beneath his
teacher did not notice until the children
interrupted her reading with their
smothered giggles. Then she looked at him.
Anger and disgust were in her eyes and
mouth. Dirty little thing. She waved him
out of the room. He could go home, he was
going to be enough of a nuisance, she had
more than enough to worry about today.
Taki half-ran towards the gate, the bell
for recess rang. The boys who had been
sitting behind him pelted out after him
and into the street. They shouted ugly,
blunt words at him. Wog! Choco! A stone
hit him on the back. He ran crying and
terrified two blocks towards his house.
Where was it?
recognised the daphne and basil in pots
beside the front door. He ran into the
hall. Their door was locked. He ran to
Angela's room. It was locked too.
Sometimes she took the children out
shopping with her before she had to go to
work. Only the cross woman who lived
upstairs was home. She had not wanted more
children in the house. Taki sat against
the door of their bedroom, huddled up,
feeling sick. His mother would be home
soon. She would put her arms around him
and say "Ti ech/.s, pethi
mou?" before taking him inside
and making him something nice to drink. He
crouched there for a long time, too scared
to move. The cross woman tramped down the
stairs and out into the street, closing
the door behind her. She muttered a few
words at him. He sat in the dark corridor.
At last the key turned in the lock. Mama!
He started up. But it was Angela with his
little brother who was crying and kicking.
Angela was bothered and in a hurry.
"Come into my room!" she shouted
out to him. But he only wanted his mother.
Nothing would be alright until then.
was on the
tram home after another long. boring and
rigorous shift. Some of the other women
were Greek but they were not allowed to
talk while they worked. If you took too
long in the toilet the overseer would
follow and shout at you.
exhausted. Even after work she never had a
moment's peace. The children were always
crying and climbing over her. They were
unsettled too. But today, she thought, as
she walked from the tram-stop, severe and
straight, her mouth compressed, she would
have a few hours to herself, if she could
get the little one to sleep. The older
children would be at school until three.
She would take off her shoes, lie on the
bed and look at her photographs of home.
and close her eyes and remember spring
days when she and her friends would carry
their blankets to the rocky stream to wash
them, taking a picnic of bread, fetta.
olives and fruit, making a day of the
first warmth. Or when. after the day's
work. she and her mother and sisters would
sit outside their stone house on the
freshly-swept and watered square, and eat
water-melon while talking in the cool of
would be hard. This first part. these
first few years, would be so hard.
Wherever she went there were closed faces
and enemies. Only when she reached the
house and shut the bedroom door behind her
could she collect her thoughts.
Thankfully, she pushed open the front
door. Taki pulled himself up from the
floor and was starting towards her. Mama!
Noweverything was alright, she would make
him safe. She saw him, all grimy and wet,
all ready to burst into tears and cling to
her. What had happened at school? So much
trouble! Was she never to have any peace?
She raised her hand and struck him across
the head. He fell back against the door,
so surprised he could not speak or cry.
Then the huge lump rose in his throat as
the unfaimess came home to him. His mother
sighed and took his hand as she unlocked
the bedroom door. He pressed himself
against her, his head pushed against her
hip; it was hard, but it was home.