Sunday, January 3, 2016

The past is ever-present, and right in my own backyard!

I celebrated the first day of the New Year 2016 by revisiting my past -- in, Naples, Florida, where I visited with the family of Sofia Papanicolaou Vardoulias, who graduated from the AFS Girls' School in 1970. ‎ Up until recently when she came to Miami to visit me, we had not seen each for 43 years. This time I got to meet the whole family (minus one daughter who has moved back to Bridgeport, CT)...a real holiday treat!

Sofia and her father (1970)
My continuing efforts to locate all the 205 graduates of that 1967-78 program -- and I'm well over the 50 percent mark so far! -- made me wonder where is Sofia who came to the US in 1972? There are at least 5 grads living in the USA and Canada as far as I know, and I have been contact w/3 of them for many years. Thanks to Google and Facebook, I was able to find Sofia (daughter of  a Greek Orthodox priest and a lovely man), who was a sharp, industrious Student Body President at school...BUT totally horrified to learn that she has lived about 2 hours from me for 19 years!

Takis, Sofia, Polixeni, & Dimitri 
‎Living mostly in CT at first, the Vardouliases decided to invest in a home in Florida, which they visited seasonally. 18 years ago, they came for good -- getting involved in a pizza place that eventually became their Zorba's, a really nice restaurant in Bonita Springs which seats about 170 people inside and out. We had a super New Year's Eve dinner there with family, friends and awesome lamb chops...topped off by going home to watch the ball drop in Times Square, just like most of you did.

Lamb Fricassee Lesson
New Year's Day morning was spent cutting the Vasilopita and reminiscing in depth...Sofia has saved her Girl's School notebooks, including one with yearbook-like inscriptions from her classmates. She did not know that her younger classmate Zoi Mihalidhou '71 had ended up working for Greek Prime Minister/President Konstantinos Karamanlis for many years until his death -- another Girls School success story, matched by Sofia and many other graduates who also have amazing life stories to share.

A highlight of my visit -- even more than the orgy of Greek TV watching (Dalaras lives, and sounds/looks pretty darn good!) -- was a cooking lesson. Sofia had already planned to make lamb fricassee, my all-time favorite dish. After watching carefully (and getting over my avgo-lemono-making phobia), I can now add it to my lamb shank repertoire. 

Sofia and her husband Takis made me feel very much at home, and we are planning for a return engagement and/or a rendezvous in Greece where they visit annually (she from Elatohori, Katerinis, and he from Mistra, Spartis).  Sofia is now all-in for finding the rest of her classmates and having a reunion. We even called one of them now living in Thessaloniki to say Happy New Year!

Bottom line right now? My Girls School Family just got a whole lot bigger...Opa!

(Published in The Greek American Herald, February 2016)

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