Greek-American Stories: That’s Yiannis!

December 24, 2018
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

Coffee in hand, George was telling the others at the table in Dixon’s, “I’ll bet Yiannis is the only person in the country that waits until all the Christmas trees are sold before he goes to pick up a remnant to take to his home. They’re free, that’s why.” Dimos, smiling, said, “Hey! The man knows how to save money. You gotta give him credit for that.” Kipreos, looking up at them, retorted, “I think it’s a shame that trees are tossed away when they aren’t sold. They could have continued growing in the woods where they belong. I never get a tree. I enjoy the tree in the hotel lobby where I work, all decked up and pretty. People come in, have tea and a pastry and admire it.” Shaking his head, John told them, “I don’t understand. I saw Yiannis just last Saturday passing my store, dragging a tree. He waved at me. I waved back thinking he’d come in. But he saw I had a few customers and went by.” George, a distinct cynical look on his face, said, “Huh! He probably sold that one, then took home the one that was free. That’s Yiannis!” “Well,” began Dimos. “That’ll make three trees. He passed my diner Saturday, with a tree that was about three feet tall. What does he need three trees for?” “THREE!” exclaimed the others in surprise. “That’s what I saw. From the same vender, too!” affirmed Dimos. George, curious, shook his head. “Doesn’t sound right. Is he selling them? Know what? I’m going to talk to that vender – see what’s up! Maybe, he’s delivering them for the vender to get paid. That’s Yiannis!”

So George, Saturday evening, went to where Dimos suggested Yiannis had purchased the trees. It was bitter cold as he stood in the shadows of a lamp post across the street from the vender, watching and waiting for Yiannis’ appearance. He pulled up his collar, stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets, wondering if Yiannis would appear at all. Then, from the subway entrance appeared Yiannis who cautiously approached the vender. They talked, briefly, then he strolled through the rows of trees lined up like sentry guards as George watched, wishing he could hear their conversation. The vender handed Yiannis a small tree that, from the looks of it, wouldn’t sell, the top had been clipped – probably during shipping. Yiannis nodded, thanked the man, and dragging the tree off, headed towards the row of buildings lining the quiet street. It was not an opulent part of the city. The building where Yiannis paused looked dismal showing signs of neglect only the landlord could be blamed for. George approached the vender and asked him about Yiannis’ actions. The vender shrugged. “Th’ guy said he’d take whatever I didn’t want. So, I said, Hey! ok, with me. Saves me th’ job of getting rid of ‘em, later. He’s been here a couple of times. Hey! Not my business what he does with ‘em. Hey! Want one, buddy? Got one with broken branches I can’t sell.”  Declining, George walked away, going in the direction of an apartment building, standing in the shadows, watching as Yiannis met up with a woman wearing a woolen coat that had seen better days, a wool cap covered her straggly hair. Shabby shoes covered her feet. Beside her were two children, about five or six who, clinging to their mother’s coat, dressed no better than her. Yiannis escorted them to the doorway of the dilapidated building. The children, laughing happily, lifted the tree as the woman smiled and thanked Yiannis before they entered the building and were lost to view. George had to admit that no money was exchanged. He approached Yiannis who looked up, surprised. “What’s up, Yiannis? Who was she?” Yiannis merely shrugged. “Nothing’s up! She’s just someone who…ahh, can’t afford a tree, that’s all.” They walked away together. Then, he turned and said to George, “Listen! Don’t tell the guys, ok?” Pausing, he explained, “I got a reputation to uphold.” Smiling, George said, “Right! We don’t want to disappoint them.” Turning, George said, “Hey! Let’s go get coffee and donuts – on me!” Grinning, Yiannis told him, “On you? Sure! That’s the only way I’d accept.”



In less than two weeks, the 47th Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will convene in the city of San Diego, CA, an event that has the opportunity to be characterized as a significant milestone for the life and progress of our Church and Community – but we are not holding our breath.

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