The straight road from our village Artemisio into Tripolis reaches the first platea or square quickly. The bus stops here as well, and it’s our village square. The villagers alight here, greet each other and bemoan the state of affairs. The square is dry and dusty, with bright light because all the buildings are painted white or have white marble cladding. The sidewalks are narrow and uneven. The roads congested with cars, and the occasional bumper bashing adds excitement.
If you turn left then left again around the square, further down the next block is a bakery. My father would always have a spot to park nearby and his first stop was always the bakery. In the morning all the breads and cakes and pitas had been baked and the smell stopped you even if you thought you were in a rush and had to be somewhere else..
The daughters behind the counter would always call their mother when my father arrived. My father would tip his hat at the iconostasio high up in the middle of the bakery, facing the entrance, at the photograph of her late husband. A big man with a handlebar moustache. She would ackwoledge the greeting of her late husband, smile, and they would exchange small talk. He would always leave with a koulouraki or kourambiede or some other sweet in the morning.
Anybody who accompanied my father was always introduced, and their lineage dissected to a level where both parties were satisfied they could guarantee an understanding of who they were talking about and what relationship existed with a visitor from say three years back. With the “aha” moment a big smile would spread over both faces and the bond was deepened. The visitor would then be offered the freshest biscuit or pita, warm and fragrant, as one of the daughter came out with tongs to serve.
My father was in the village for maybe two months of the year, sometimes only a few days at a time when he had bank meetings. Yet he never failed to stop at the bakery and enquire to their health and progress of the family. He also never failed to make sure he walked into Tripolis with a fortifying offering from the baker’s wife.
He would always return just before lunch to buy bread for the house. Happiest when it was a large round village bread, the crust of which could withstand the pressure from any other shopping bags with which it was forced into the car. Also the bread felt it was made of something, it had weight beyond the airiness of designer and convenient breads of the American lifestyle.