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Greek-American Stories: School Days

Schools opened in September! Watching kids boarding the school bus was so sentimental, reminding me when my two kids went to school. Not that they stood on any line for a bus. They walked! It was only three blocks. Only in case of a blizzard or hurricane did I drive them to school. I walked to school when I was in elementary school. It was fun! I lived in New York, next door to the Hotel Belvedere and went through the front entrance, straight through to 48th Street and onto the school steps.

I remember my mom taking me and my brother to Woolworth’s to buy school supplies. She’d pick up pencils, pads, a school bag, and other stuff while I went to the cosmetics counter, looking at the nail polish, colognes, and hair curlers. Of course, If I came home with anything like that my father‘d give me a ‘Frankenstein’ stare. My brother would be found at the toy counter fingering baseballs and lead soldiers. Back home, my mother and the neighbors would gather in the hallway and discuss what was bought while we’d all have fun chasing each other in and out of our apartments playing tag. That all came to a screeching halt when Greek School was mentioned. Suddenly, George, Nick, and Angelo, those refrigerator-sized, rowdy, muscular boys who’d pull my braids when I got caught became like prisoners having learned they were sentenced to life without parole.

I liked Greek School. Honest! But the teacher, Kyrie Moshos, wasn’t too fond of me, I think. It started when a test was distributed. I answered as best as I knew how. For instance, one question was: where is the Acropolis located? I wrote “Greece.” Angelo whispered, “Athens, you dummy!” Another question was, ‘what do Kolokotroni, Ipsilanti and Venizelos have in common?’ I wrote: They’re dead!” The next question asked:  Where on the map is Greece located?” That was easy. “Between Italy and Turkey, sideways and Albania and the Mediterranean Sea, down ways.” I recall that after a conference between my mother and Kyrie Moshos, I didn’t have to go to Greek School anymore. I guess I was too advanced – or something. Our Greek books were really old. probably, written by Plato. Eggs were called: ‘O-a’. Spring was called, ‘E-ar’. Grandmother was: Mamee! But, we spoke Greek at home.

How different school-age kids are now. Now, they have cell phones, jazzy clothes, and ten pairs of sneakers. The girls go to school in clothes that leave little to the imagination, and, that’s in winter! They’d be overburdened with sports equipment and a watch, Rolex! With all that paraphernalia you’d need a car to get to and from school. Moms and dads worked. Of course! Someone’s got to pay for all that stuff.

So, kids are on their own a lot. The only time we were left alone was doing homework, or we had measles or a bad cold, or my parents went food shopping on Ninth Avenue where a myriad of vegetable stands, fish, and meat stores abounded.

Anyway, my kids are now sending their kids off to school while I wait to hear about their scholastic achievements. Of course, when we all meet, like on Thanksgiving Day, I always find some story to tell them, especially, when I was in Greek School.

Notice when kids drive by in their Lexus they’re playing really loud sounds? I cannot, in all good conscience, call it music. It’s called ‘Rap!’ It sounds like a drill sergeant shouting orders to a new recruit. One thing I could vouch for; they can’t sing a note! They DON”T sing. Then, concerts have guys brutalizing a guitar while screaming inaudible words in a language not recognized by the UN. They march up and down the stage, dressed in clothes from Good Will; their hair is uncombed and wild. I mean they look like they hadn’t slept in a long while and were told they had to get up and work.

I can imagine the scene: “But, I have no experience working!” The manager, looking as vicious as his client, tells him, “just grab that guitar and yell your lungs out. I gotta get paid!” The girls scream vows of eternal love at them until a new performer appears. Its times like that I want to go home and play my CD: The Brothers Four, singing, Green Fields.

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