Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Gogo frowned at her meagre collection of lipsticks. All subtle variations of a ladylike rose shade, none of them really matched the new silk scarf she’d knotted round her neck. She so wanted to look ‘nice’ today. Not that it really mattered – she knew that her son and daughter-in-law wouldn’t be dressing up particularly, even though it was a feast day with all the family gathering at their house. No matter, she had standards and she intended to maintain them – even if only by example.

Sighing, she picked up the brightest shade and swiped it across her lips, pressing them together to get an even application. She looked into the mirror, smiled broadly, pouted, then frowned. She hated the lines that appeared to the sides of her mouth and above her top lip. They just reminded her that the carefree young girl from the village was long gone, her plump optimistic face erased by the years and replaced by that of a much plumper old lady.

Not that she would ever have dared wear lipstick as a young girl. Back then, only actresses, harlots and brides on their wedding days would go to such extremes. She absently fingered the cross beneath her scarf and thought of the girl she’d once been, then grabbed a tissue and scrubbed the colour off.

What business did an old woman in her 70s have prancing about with painted lips, after all? Better leave that to her daughter-in-law, who had a penchant for scarlet lips, despite the fact that she was – frankly – a bit of a slob in other ways. Gogo hoped that her 15-year-old granddaughter and namesake, Georgia, would take her style tips from the older generation. But she didn’t hold out much hope.

She saw a lot of herself in Georgia. She was delightful child who had inherited the dark eyelashes and perfect golden-tinted skin her English mother so envied. She was prettily round in the face and, like all 15-year-olds, rather self-conscious. She let her hair hang down over her face as she bent over whatever book she was currently burying her nose into and stubbornly rebuffed her grandma’s efforts to pin it back with a pretty hairpin or grip. That, Gogo reflected, was down to her mother’s influence. Though a ‘zeni’ (foreigner), Susan had a good heart but she also had more than her share of English obstinance.

She grabbed her bag, shrugged her coat on and called out to her husband, who was sitting in the kitchen bent over a crossword to the soundtrack of a TV show no-one was watching. “Ela, Michali! They’ll be waiting.”

The gruff, luxuriously moutaschioed old man gave the hallway a hard stare and put his pen down. Getting up, he grumbled that HE was the one who’d been waiting 40 minutes for her to decide which top to wear. “OK, Gogoula. Calm down,” he barked affectionately and reached for his coat.

His wife of 49 years bent to check that the votive candle burning in its holder on her dressing table had enough oil to stay alight until they returned from their lunch date. Stepping into the hall, she arched her eyebrow at Michalis but resisted the urge to ask “You’re wearing that?”

As they walked the 200 metres to their son’s apartment, she bemoaned his instructions not to bring any food to add to what they were preparing for the family meal. “I just hope that there’s enough for everyone. I’m not sure if a 7 kilo side of goat will be enough – and not everyone likes those strange salads and vegetarian concoctions that Susan comes up with. And what about dessert? I bet they haven’t thought of that.” Michalis grunted and hoped that his youngest grandson wouldn’t be hogging the TV when they arrived.

A pleasant surprise met them as Susan opened the door with a smile. She was in a dress, not jeans, her hair was brushed, and she was wearing make-up (including ruby red lips). Still barefoot, mind, Gogo noted as her daughter-in-law stepped aside to let them in. A glass half-filled with wine sat on the sideboard, a smudge of scarlet betraying its owner.

“So, what do you want me to do?” Gogo bustled into the kitchen where her only son was carving chunks of meat (and stealing mouthfuls), still in his track pants and an apron. 

“Hi Mama," he replied. "Everything's under control - just sit down and relax til we’re ready to serve up.” 

She ignored him, as he knew she would. Hovering at his side, she offered advice on how to cut the goat, opinions on the right serving dish to use and help with sampling the stuffing to make sure it was properly seasoned, in between tidbits of gossip about cousins he barely remembered he had.

The food and her son were abruptly abandoned with a broad smile as she turned to greet Georgia who had crept in and said “Kalimera Yiagia”.

“Hello my sweetheart, how are you? Don’t you look lovely?” she said, stroking the teenager’s hair into a nice, neat side parting. “Aren’t you going to put some shoes on? And where’s that lovely crucifix we gave you?”

A dark look gave her all the answer she needed. Georgia stared at her with glistening, almost fearful, eyes.

“Let’s go inside, Yiayia,” she said. “I’ve got something to tell you.”    

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