Greece: In a Cafe…


I have been scheduled to give a travel talk about a trip I took to Greece. While digging through my journals, I found this entry. It is a letter that was never sent, to my mother. It was October, I had just finished watching a bicycle race, for dozens of children, in the streets of Kalambaka – a village in the mountains of Meteora. A month later I would return home to discover that my mom had been diagnosed with cancer. She is still here, but now I know that someday she will be gone…

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” 
-Emily Dickinson
Black Sea, tea.

We sat in cafes – you, your friends, and I.

Me in my grown-up chair, scrunching my nose at the smell of your coffee, grinning with increasing anticipation as my hot chocolate with whipped cream got ever closer to the table.

The waiter treated me like a lady, and I was sure that I must look the part. You spoke of womanly, adult, things – work, romance, projects yet to be started, adventures that were still dreams…

Sip by sip, my hot chocolate cooled, disappeared. I listened to what it means to be a lady, a woman, a mother, a friend, a person. I absorbed the conversation like a sponge.

To travel and laugh…
To be capable and brave…
To listen and care…
To speak articulately and powerfully…
To forgive and have wisdom…
To be so beautiful, that you see the beauty in everyone…
But more than anything, I wanted to be resilient, to love, to make the world my home and its people my family… that is what I saw in all of you…

We don’t sit in a cafe anymore.

I sit on my own.

My nose enjoys the aroma of coffee.

If I were near that little girl, I would smile. I would hold her to my heart. I would touch my finger to the tip of her nose, lean close, and say, “you are beautiful!” . I would listen to her wants, her aspirations, the whispers of her secret dreams. I would take a big drink of her hot chocolate and get whipped cream all over my nose… just to hear her laugh.

I would let her know that there are as many ways to be a person as there are people on the earth…that different is normal, and that even if she doesn’t know what that means…she will. I would ask her if she likes the moon, and how many stars wink cheekily at her before she sleeps at night. I would tickle her. I would tell her that the stories she tells to her stuffed animals are brilliant – she should write them on white paper, without lines, using more colors than a rainbow!

She grew up. She was excited to be grown-up, someday…

I wish you were here with me – under this warm autumn sun, at this table. The chairs are filled with girls waiting to be women, women waiting to be themselves, couples in love, elderly men ranting about politics and heckling the wait staff – grabbing for the youth still beating in their hearts.

I stir the thick cream into my coffee. The waiter sets a pastry before me with a smile at the corners of his lips, he bows to me a little – as if I am a lady. The lively bustle brings a gentle ache to the center of my chest. Such a sweet and lovely world… you would love it…

I miss you, every time that I sit in a cafe.

My mom and me. (photo by Daniela Gross)

My mom and me. (photo by Daniela Gross)

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