26 September. Two women
I am writing today from my favorite coffee shop in Dana Point. We have had a really great summer this September, but today that came to an end Grey skies and the possibility of rain. This week we were clearing out lots of old stuff and I found two pictures I thought I would share with you.
The first one is taken in 1997. In the town of Burlington, Vermont. I was 36 and I was dating that lovely girl, Emma Jarvis. Emma lived with me in my home on the Riverbank. And it was her who wanted to get a dog which led to the arrival of Wallace. Actually, Emma wanted to get married and have a child and I did not, so getting a dog was a trial run. It turned out that she wanted to have a child more than a dog ad so we separated, but for the two years we were together we had a great time.
She was a great ‘step mum’ to John. And she also was an amazing help with John’s half brother, Alexander, who needed a little encouragement at that time, when his parents were separating. Parental separation affects a lot of people in many different ways. When Emma left, she loved Wallace a lot. But, she realised that I was the stay home dad for Wallace, and the best thing for Wallace was to stay with me. So there was no argument. Or court case. Or family law lawyer taking millions in opportunism out of parental separation. She did what was right. And as a result, Wallace had a great life on Riverbank.
I am not in touch with Emma any more, but I am sure she would be very interested to meet you. And to hear the story of Adler vs Broulidakis.
The picture was taken during one of our trips to America, two weeks in the fall driving through Massachusetts and Vermont. That was a super Lobster restaurant on the Lake near Burlington. Taken by the waiter. It captures a very happy moment in time. How different life would have been if I had decided to have a child with her. But I did not, so I chose another picture to talk about.
That one is taken in Johannesburg in the late 80’s, at a graduation ceremony. The pretty girl is your aunt, my sister Christine Broulidakis. That is Yaya next to her, and the two others are the parents of John Souglides, who you have met. He was Christine’s husband. And boy oh boy, is that a story for you to hear one day when we see each other again. But the bigger story is the old woman on the left. There are not many photos of her. That is my Thea Eftiyia. (Felicity) My Great Aunt. The sister of yaya’s Mother, Panayiota. (Penny).
After the war ended in 1945, Thea Eftiyia married a Greek guy who had a food shop in South Africa. Near the Johannesburg Station. The lived in a small flat in Yeoville, and had a daughter, Despina. Thea Eftiyia came to South Africa in 1956 with my mother, your Yaya, who was a pretty young thing, who soon after arriving married a rich big guy, your grandad, Mano Broulidakis.
The way events unfolded, my sister Kathy, the ballerina, two years older than me, became Thea Eftiyia’s favorite. She would come visit us in Bryanston often. She adored this little girl, (Katerina mou) and she cherished me. She called me ‘My beautiful Andrea” in Greek.
Her own daughter had gone back to Greece to marry and have children of her own. (Despina, she has two lovely daughters, who are themselves mothers with kids your age.)
Thea’s husband had died, and so she spent all her time running the shop near the station. It was called a ‘Kafouriko’. Which in today’s language is not acceptable, but what it really was, was a shop where she fed Black people who traveled through the station to work in the rich White areas. This was the time of Apartheid. And Blacks were regarded as lower than dogs by the majority of the White people.
But not Thea.
She would go to the ‘Kafouriko’ at 4 in the morning, and make up huge bowls of mielie pap, like a cheap but nutritious corn mash, and a meaty stew comprising whatever the cheapest bits of meat she could find. At around 6 the workers would arrive in streams from Soweto. She only offered one item. A paper plate with a big scoop of mielie meal, over which she poured a big slop of the meaty gravy.
Thea could not speak any English. And the area where the shop was was dangerous. She had learned how to make this food with her husband, the two of them running the shop, but after he died, she carried on. 5 days a week. The working days. Monday to Friday, then she would catch the bus to our house in Bryanston on Friday and return to her flat on Sunday night.
I was around 6 at this time when I learned about what she did and I asked her why. Because I learned she only charged 50C for this meal, and that she did not make any money from that ‘Kafouriko’. She told me “These poor people. They have nothing. So I make sure they have at least one hot meal every day to give them strength.” Although Thea could not speak Greek, and had no education in the formal manner, she was raised with filotimia. Its a big word. and a big ethical value. Placing priority on being kind to others. I raised you in this tradition for the 4 years you lived with me.
So this 50 year old Greek woman would leave at 4 am every working day to open her store near Johannesburg station, where a line of Black folk would wait for their plate of food. I asked “What if they didn’t have 50c”. She answered, “Nobody went hungry”. They called her ‘Magog” Grandmother. For decades a thousand hungry men set off to work every day with a stomach full of energizing food because of her.
Time went on, and the building where she had the lease for her shop was being developed. My father negotiated the sale of her lease to the developer, and as luck would have it although she made no money out of selling her food, the lease was worth millions.
Now she had millions and much was invested in a Shopping center in South Africa, and an office in Syntagma Square. Amazing that this old woman motivated only by kindness and not money, should have this good fortune. Next thing that happened is my father died when I was ten. And so Thea moved into our home with us full time. To raise us two kids, Kathy and Me. (Yaya raised Christine who was 6 years younger and still pliable for her parenting convenience.)
So you see, that old Greek woman raised us like a mother and father. With ethical values and standards. She was a complete legend. When I left South Africa for good, she came to the airport to day goodbye and cried tears of happiness that I was leaving. Knowing it was the best thing for me even though it meant she could no longer look after me, cooking me all my meals and doing all my washing. And explaining her views on God and royalty and so on. She loved to talk to me. And tell me how smart I was. (Especially because at that time everyone said the opposite about me because they were very nationalistic and I knew better. So I faced a lot of criticism. It was special having someone tell me I was smart at that time.)
John met Thea when he was young.
Even Johns mother, Catherine, was in awe of Thea.
In her late sixties, Thea died very suddenly after a cancer diagnosis. I did not attend the funeral.
I think back often about how important she was in my life. Having someone to tell you stuff that is ethically solid. That represents values of a timeless quality. I could not have learned from a smarter person in that time and place in my development as a young boy.
So there you go. Two women in my life who modeled some good values for me. I hope you are as lucky as me with the women you will meet in yours.
Its my birthday on Saturday. My friends Rob and Wieke have a lake house in the mountains and we are going for a weekend long celebration, seeing as I will by 19. Nearly not a teenager any more. My plan is to have a fabulous meal and drink a glass of particularly fine wine. And raise a toast to seeing my son again soon.
I will miss not seeing you, at my dinner party but I know you will be sending me good wishes through the ether.