Growing up Greek
Halloween ala Greek-style
“Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” Perhaps my favorite song when I was a child. I loved EVERYTHING about Halloween! The candy, parties, jack o’lanterns, cutouts of wicked witches and ghosts hanging on all of our neigbors’ doors, bobbing for apples, haunted house tours and of course all of the great costumes that EVERYONE had. EVERYONE except for me!
My mother and father had an opportunity to go to Las Vegas on some tickets they won in a raffle...and this, my friends is where my hell begins. My mother got yiayia and papou to take care of me while they were away in Las Vegas. To be away during such an important holiday like Halloween worried me, but my mother reassured me by saying, "don't worry, yiayia knows what to do when it comes to Halloween, trust me!" Those words will always come to, pardon the pun...but, HAUNT my mother for the rest of her life, as I never let her forget what I went through that Halloween! My yiayia didn't even know what Halloween was! No clue. Never heard of it, nada, zip...I just envisioned my yiayia walking to the door on Halloween night, opening the door to a would be trick-or-treater, then running back to us, in a panic, screaming, "the devil is outside and he wants candy!"Before my parents left, I remember my mother reaching into her pocketbook and pulling out a ten dollar bill and giving it to my yiayia. She told my yiayia that the ten dollars was for me, and that I could pick out any costume I wanted. Boy, I was so excited! Ten dollars could buy me once GREAT costume...and the better the cotume, the more candy I could rake in (hey, I was ten, give me a break...it was child logic okay?). I knew I was in trouble when my yiayia took the ten dollar bill from my mother's hand, winked at my mother then, in a very classy style, shoved the bill into her bra for safe keeping.
My parents left for the airport and thus my hellish Halloween began! It was two days before Halloween and I just came home from school. As I walked through the house, I smelled that familiar heavy aroma of Greek pastries baking. I walked into the kitchen and I saw my yiayia bent over in front of the oven, switching pans of freshly baked baklava and koulourakia and stacking them with the other pans that she had baked earlier that day. There must have been ten pans of Baklava and ten pans of koukourakia stacked all over the kitchen. I asked my yiayia why she was baking, she told me in her thick Greek accent, "is for this stupid Halloweenie parma!" I tried to remain calm, explaining that people give candy on Halloween. She look me in the eye and told me "Vasili, to give candy is a TSEEPIKO thing." Now, for those of you who are not well-versed in Greek and are wondering what the hell TSEEPIKO means, it's Greek for CHEAP! (you guys keep reading my stories and I'll teach you how to speak Greek before you know it!). My calm quickly evaporated, and I scremed out "NOOOOO!" I ran to my bed and cired into my pillow, thinking of all the hell I would go through if my yiayia passed out baklava and koulourakia to my friends on Halloween. I imagined my friends coming to my door and ringing the doorbell, with my yiayia opening the door screaming out "Merry Christmas! In her hands a pan of baklava and a spatula, scooping out this gooey mess into a fresh bag of "sweet booty" consisting of candy bars, lollipops, bubble gum, pixy sticks and little bags of M&M's. I can almost see them looking at each other and saying, "what the hell is this and why is my candy so sticky".
A couple of hours later, yiayia came to my bedroom and told me that she was ready to take me shopping. I perked up, pulling myself from the tear-drenched pillow. We were going to buy my expensive ten dollar costume...at least I had that going for me! As we walked into the store and headed for the Halloween department, I wass excited, anticipating an unbelievable costume that none of my friends could top. This costume would surely make my friends forget the baklava and koulourakia debacle. My yiayia looked at the price tags of some of these costumes, rubbed her eyes then looked again. She reached into her purse and pulled out her reading glasses. Once the glasses were on she peaked at the price tag again, but this time shaking her head then looking at me and said "NO! I no buy you ten dollar SCRAPPYIA (Yea, it's Greek for SCRAPS). There was a quick tug of war which she finally won as she yanked from my hands the costume that I wanted so badly. She put it back on the rack, and as we walked out of the store she said, "I will make you a costume better than the SCRAPPYIA this store sell." This is when my heart sank to my stomach.
We left the store and walked into a fabric shop a few doors down. I kept my mouth shut afraid to ask questions as I watched my yiayia buy three and half yards of THICK, SEE-THRU PLASTIC material. When we got home, she proceeded to completely wrap me, from head to toe with this THICK SEE-THRU PLASTIC and then handed me a brown paper bag. Folks, this was my Halloween costume! I was horrified when I realized my yiayia, who was gazing at me with such pride, actually expected me to go trick-or-treating in this "costume".
I walked around, embarrassed, hiding in the bushes until the large gang of kids cleared each individual walkway of all the neighborhood homes. It makes me laugh now thinking about it, people would open the doors and ask, "and what are you supposed to be little boy?" In disgust, I'd look up these people and tell them, "Oh I'm dressed like my yiayia and papou's living room sofa, now give me my dammed candy!"
Just wait until I tell you about the Greek-Style Thanksgiving and all the crazy memories we had..."Growing Up Greek In America"
To find out more about Basile and "Growing Up Greek In America" Go to www.OPABASILE.com or call 1-888-8-BASILE.