Sitting here amid the ruins of ancient Sparti, I have Eleftheria (Liberty) on my mind. That's Eleftheria #2, whom I just left behind in Koroni, Messinias. She's one of 3 cousins of that same name and generation whose Yiayia was Eleftheria Kapiniari, mother of my Yiayia Evghenia Sarris.
I have known Koroni Eleftheria since 1962, when I first visited Greece with my Aunt Libby Sarris, aka Eleftheria #1. #2 was a slight young woman not too much older than me and raised by her aunt Panayiota, who could not bear children. She subsequently married Vassilis Sayiakos and had 3 kids of her own. (Eleftheria #3 lives in Athens...)
Later visits revealed a kind woman with a wry sense of humor and an unusual flair for color. My brother Bill remembers a house crawling with painted flower pots large and small. When I visited 4 years ago, I was taken aback and charmed by Eleftheria's unusual creativity. She gave me a commercially-printed postcard that featured her colorful housefront.
And when I went back to her house last Sunday, I was simply amazed and dazzled by a current output that now includes gourds and rocks of all sizes -- and takes up every available inch of her courtyard. A phalanx of large cans housing plants that stands guard outside is painted bright purple!
"What's happening here?" I joked. "'I've lost my mind,' she joked back, while stepping around a bunch of paint cans in the middle of the floor. "I like doing this, it's very relaxing." I couldn't help admiring her efforts outloud and repeatedly. She promised me a gift.
The next day, she proudly presented me with a freshly-decorated rock signed per my request, a new concept it seemed...For my part, I had taken a leap of faith and bought her some art supplies from the local stationary store. I suggested that she could perfect designs on paper first and then paint rocks and gourds to sell. She said she had thought of that...Inspired, I promised to send her a book about Grandma Moses -- who late in life painted in a simple, folksy style. Who knows what might come of all this?
That's the story of Eleftheria #2, for now. I should also mention that her husband died last year. So here's a talented woman who LOVES bright colors, but is now consigned to wearing black for the rest of her life. What is wrong with this picture?
NOTE: While in Koroni, I met her grandchild Eleftheria -- the only relative carrying that name in the current generation. I'm hoping that some day one of my nephews or nieces decides to name a daughter Eleftheria. Is there a cooler name than Liberty?
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