A Trip to the Garden
“Androulió, get up … get up so we can make
it before sunrise.” On
the afternoon of the previous day, I had overheard that we would
be going to Koutalá today. Now the sweet voice of my mother, and a little
later that of my grandmother, told me that it was indeed true. No, it hadn’t been just a dream of the night.
Sitting on the edge of my bed rubbing my eyes, I waited a
little and suddenly all the memories from the last time at our
garden at Koutala danced before my mind’s eye.
I heard my grandfather’s voice coming from the kitchen.
“Ela, Androulio, come!” Recalling
the always sweet embrace of my grandfather, I ran to hide myself
within his cape.
annoyed mother, trying to get us ready in time to reach Koutala before daybreak, impatiently asked, “You still haven’t washed up?”
grandfather’s giant arms still held me in a hug, and all that
could be seen of me was my little head peeping out from beneath
his cape. “Don’t scold my little Androulio … don’t scold my good boy.”
Loukoyiannis was huge … very tall, with hands that resembled those
of the giant I had heard about in fairy tales.
But my pappou
was a good giant, not like the one in the fairy tales.
I could never recall a time when he didn’t open up his
cape to let me in for one of his strong hugs.
How could I ever forget my grandfather?
From the opening of his cape, I could look out upon the
whole world with confidence because I knew that whenever I got
scared, I could always find shelter there.
And many times when I did something that wasn’t appreciated
by my mother, something devilish, as she would say, and she would
chase me around with her slipper in her hand, there would be my
grandfather, my safe harbor. “Don’t
scold my little Androulio…don’t
scold my good boy.”
finally finished my breakfast, my father had already prepared
everything we would need for the road.
He had loaded our donkey with the necessary tools and our
lunch. My mother and my grandmother had prepared our
food the night before.
my father was ready to go. He
had to pull the donkey next to the front steps so that my grandmother
could jump up to sit on the saddle.
Often before yiayia could jump up, our donkey would
move a few steps forward, a few steps backward, or a few steps
to the right or left. Then
my father would pull hard on the reins, and many times he had
to push our donkey in order to get it back to the steps.
And just when my grandmother was ready to jump up, there
the donkey would go again, moving a few steps forward, a few steps
backward, or a few steps to the right or left. Then my father would shout, “You’re not worth
the food we feed you!” And
when my yiayia finally managed to sit in the saddle,
our donkey would start off immediately as if it couldn’t wait
to begin the day’s journey.
in the world do you think you’re going, eh?”
And again my father would pull on the reins to stop the
donkey. I knew what that meant. It was my turn! “Come, Andriko.” And with lightning speed, my father would lift
me up to sit on the rump of the donkey.
It was something I always anticipated with excitement;
I knew that seat was reserved for me.
It was only on days when my sister Ioanna was coming with
us that we would take turns sitting there during the trip.
But still I knew that seat was only for children like us.
It was necessary for me to come down only when we had to
go up a steep hill so the donkey wouldn’t kneel down, because
then my grandmother would have to come down, too, according to
this way we went, with me on the donkey’s rump, my yiayia in the saddle, and my father following behind whistling and
with a walking stick in his hand.
The birds sang continuously and the cicadas had just started
their screeching, and a gentle breeze from the sea far below cooled
going to be very hot today,” my father was saying. “Do you hear the cicadas?” And he continued whistling his song. I wondered what kind of song it was that he
was whistling. Was it one
he knew from his youth, one he had learned at the festivals?
Because everyone knew that my father had been one of the
best dancers in his youth, and he was well known in all the nearby
villages for the grace and skill with which he danced at the festivals.
And my father was proud of that reputation. Or could it be that he was whistling one of
the war songs he had learned when he was a soldier in the mountains
for four years?
was just starting to peek out from behind the mountain when we
finally reached the gate of our garden.
“Glory be to God,” my grandmother was saying, “we have
arrived safely.” And we were all cheerful. The adults had a lot of work do with the soil,
with the fruit trees, and with the vegetables. And I had that much and even more to do! Like finding crabs in the water cistern. Like making little lakes from the stream of
water coming from the well. Like
picking mulberries from the mulberry trees.
Like drawing water from the well with a cup.
And like playing with the children of our hired worker.
within the eternity of my universe, my father’s voice was saying,
“Andriko, bring us a little water from the
well because this heat is going to roast us here, but remember
to keep your head outside of the well when you bend down!”
And I would run with all my strength to draw the water
and take it to them.
you, my Androulio,” my grandmother would say as soon as she finished
drinking the cupful, and then she would continue picking the vegetables.
had finally gotten tired of running from terrace to terrace and
climbing trees and chasing cicadas, it was time to eat.
We all sat down under our big pear tree and took out the
food we had brought, the food my mother had prepared the night
“Andriko, will you go dig up some onions
and cut some tomatoes? Bring
some cucumbers, too.” So
our fresh salad was ready, and I felt proud because I too had
helped prepare our lunch. Everything had a delicious aroma all its own.
My grandmother put olive oil and wine vinegar on the salad.
She would pour the oil by slanting the bottle a certain
way, and then she would skillfully pour the vinegar from the same
bottle. Her method of doing this was to cover the mouth
of the bottle with her finger and then turn the bottle upside-down,
letting a little vinegar trickle out of the mouth. Only the vinegar dribbled out; the oil would
rise to the top of the upside-down bottle.
My grandmother said that this way you could pour as much
vinegar as you wanted.
had finally eaten my fill, Yiayia
would spread out a blanket for me under the pear tree, and I was
ready to take a nap. My
father covered my face with his hat because he said the breeze
would knock down pears and they would fall on my head and wake
me up. Thus, I would fall
asleep under the pear tree.
When I had rested enough, falling pears or
the tickling of a passing fly would again bring me back to my
beloved world. I could
hear the voices of my father and of my grandmother and of our
hired worker coming from the lower terraces, making
plans for the rest of the week -- plans for watering, plans for
pruning, and plans for fertilizing the trees that needed it. I felt like the king of the whole world. Everything in my world was full of love, beauty,
When the sun was finally starting to hide behind the mountains,
my father again began to load up our little donkey, but now he
was also loading it with the vegetables and fruits, which my grandmother
had picked. And my grandmother
was gathering the tools and replugging the cistern so that it
would collect water and fill up again.
I was waiting for my yiayia to sit on the donkey so I could
then sit on its rump once again.
Our good little donkey never complained.
My grandmother and I with our vegetables, fruit, and tools
all loaded on the donkey, and with my father following along behind,
we set off for the village.
Upon reaching home, we found my mother, sister, and grandfather
all waiting for us. My
grandfather had just returned from the cafenio.
is supper ready?”
“Yes, my Yiannako,
come to eat. Ela!”
And I couldn’t wait to show my sister the mother crab I had
caught and all the hundreds of baby crabs that were coming out
of her belly. They were
so tiny and white in color. And
then I wanted to show her the mulberries I had picked from the
That evening at the table, everyone was talking about the
work that needed to be done the following day and where we would
go. Never-ending, sweet discussions. And ever-so-gently, sleep would come and take
me to the new places where I would be going the next day, and
it would show me what new things I would be discovering.
Tonight, I heard that this time we would be going to our
vineyard in the morning to pick grapes and figs.
It was within this safe and warm atmosphere that I lived the
first eight years of my life, and it was during this time that
the soul of Andriko, of Androulio, was shaped.
January 3, 1999
Andréas Toupadákis nicknames: Androulió, Andríko
Maria Toupadáki the mother of
Andreas; nickname: Maríka
Ilías Toupadákis the father of
the grandfather of Andreas & father of Maria nickname: Loukoyiánnis, Yiannáko
the grandmother of Andreas & mother of Maria
Koutalá the name
of an area where the family’s
garden and a community well are located, just a few kilometers
outside of the village of Argyroúpolis, belonging to the prefecture
of Réthymno, Crete.
of Greek Words
cafenío a coffee house
where men would sit for hours drinking coffee and having long