The other Maria and my cousin Eleni are nestled in the carafe of wine.
I wrapped Nantia into a sock and Nikoleta in the underwear.
Elijah has affectionately dubbed them "the tavern girls." When I think about their company, I can taste fried zucchini and calamari, melitzanosalata and tsipouro. The stuff of Greece. Because of them, I can feel grains of sand still etched into the lining of my shoe and skin peeling on my lower back. The tavern girls are woven into memories of home and love, sea and late-night sky. They are the memories of a Greece the news does not cover -- of a Greece that exists in our hearts.
On my last morning in Thessaloniki, Haroula and Nikoleta surprised me by showing up at my house. In my front yard they re-created the tavern: a carafe of wine, and seven glasses, each with our name on them. "So you can take us with you," they offered.
The past three years have shown me the bearable lightness of being. They have hammered home the appeal of a simple, weightless life, anchored by love and memory. I am in the process of packing this life up for a transition -- the kind of transition that involves bikinis and snow boots in the same suitcase. Once again, it is a life in two bags. Three hours before I had to leave for the airport, I removed three sweaters from the suitcase to make room for the types of memories that truly keep me warm in life:
The wine glass that says Χαρούλα is in the left boot. Μαρία in the right.
The other Μαρία and my cousin Ελένη are nestled in the carafe of wine.
I wrapped Νάντια into a sock and Νικολέτα in the underwear.