Sunday Blog 82 – 30th April 2023
Between deciding to go and leaving, there was a two week period. I packed two very heavy suitcases for that brief trip to the UK to “lift my spirits”.
It had been a long eight months, and after Summer had waned I’d endured Winter in snowy Thessaloniki in Greece with my baby daughter in a one-room flat with no backyard. And parents-in-law upstairs and a very distant, unavailable partner. My skin was tinged with the grey of a long winter of being cooped up with a toddler, bathing in the neglect and contempt of her father.
Packed in those heavy suitcases were also Summer clothes for Australia, as I was fleeing home, taking my girl with me.
I had arrived eight months earlier, with my seven-month-old daughter. I was cautiously optimistic I could coax a partnership from the chance relationship with a Thessaloniki local that had resulted in an unplanned pregnancy. I had met him when teaching English as a Foreign Language and then had proceeded with a pregnancy that Was Not Properly Sanctioned. He didn’t really want to be rushed into fatherhood. I went back to Australia to birth her there and planned a return to Greece to at least give the relationship a try.
So accordingly I had arrived in Thessaloniki with my seven-month-old daughter and some tender dreams. I knew within twenty-four hours of arriving that I had made a hideous mistake, but I persisted for eight months. Until the letter from a concerned friend woke me from the forlorn spell I was under. The letter touched a resolve in me.
In the two weeks between receiving the letter and fleeing, I cried a little about him, but I wept and wept at the unfairness of it all for her Greek grandparents. This perfectly beautiful baby would be their only grandchild, and I was taking her away. A child is a blessing, a grandchild is a double blessing, the Greek saying went. I packed and wept, packed and wept.
There was no room for honest conversations and dignified exits. There was too much risk I would be prevented from leaving. So the two of us left for the UK. It was a strange, sad farewell tour in the UK before we boarded for Australia.
The two of us made our life back in Australia and yes, we have always remained in some kind of touch with the Greek relatives. But it was not the same, of course, as it would have been if we’d stayed.
This treasured baby has grown into a woman who, among many other things, is a talented signer song-writer. Last weekend, I bathed in the excruciating sweetness of listening to her sing about the person she would have been if I hadn’t fled.
Her version of herself looks much the same. The green eyes which are a delicious blend of his velvet brown eyes and my bright blue ones. But the other her confidently navigates the streets and nooks of Thessaloniki. She is bilingual – not like the grandchild who had to endlessly apologies to Ya Ya (Grandma) and Papous (Grandpa) that she is sorry she can’t speak to them or understand what they say.
My sliding door moment was necessarily her sliding door moment too. That is the powerlessness of the child. And yet she’s transformed that into a beautiful song.
I listened and cried, listened and cried.