Sunday, February 22, 2015

Biography of a not-so-random object

She always wore her hat, and she only came to the afternoon gatherings.  I can't remember when Kiria Selini started being part of the weekday rotation, but it certainly was not right from the beginning.  I also do not know whose friend or neighbour she was, because she was not part of the family.  Formality was always observed with her, a small woman, neat and chirpy, removing her gloves as she entered.
After she had had her coffee and sweetmeat she would take her hand work out of her handbag.  It was always a crochet hook, and always one of two items that she was making: a looped washcloth or a needle case.
Every time we were there for the summer and she would say that we would not find her the following year.  It was, however many years before she was missing.  Life had caught up with so many of us in different ways by then.  There was so much I did not know about her, but somehow I felt that asking would emphasize my being the outsider.  I do not even know if Selini was her surname or given name but the Kiria (Mrs sounds so prosaic, Madame would be a better approximation) was always used.  I never heard her address anyone directly  - or perhaps even indirectly by name.
All I know is that apart from being a widow there was some sadness about her, which I understood from the vague muttered sympathetic adjectives overheard when she was not present - sadness more than simply that her son was a communist official in Russia!  In any case he was not discussed - well, not until Greece took in the folks who wanted to come back from Russia.  The son joined his mother, but by then I was married and no longer a summer visitor.
Over the years we received many washcloths: strong cotton constructs which did not disintegrate from one summer to the next.  But in 1969, on my last visit before marriage I also received this needle case, and I use it still.

8 comments:

  1. What a lovely biography of both the object and the person who made it! You write so sensitively of her. I can feel her and the situation so keenly. Thank you for sharing this memory.

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  2. I knew from the first line that this was about your summers in Thessaloniki. It had the same feel, the same atmosphere that I've glimpsed from when you have talked about those summers before. A lovely post.

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    1. I'm quite transparent! Thank you, Eirene.

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    2. What I meant was that you have conveyed the atmosphere of your days in Thessaloniki so well, that I could see this visitor arriving to one of those gatherings.

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    3. Thank you, Eirene - I see that my reply to your first comment might seem negative because no tone of voice was conveyed. Not so, but thanks for your elaboration.

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  3. Delightful story as Charlton and Eirene said...

    What also struck me about this story was that there were these regular 'gatherings', in the afternoon in this case. This seems to suggest those long ago days when women would get together for coffee or tea and baking and gossip and handiwork like crotch or knitting. This is so rare these days unless one is part of a special crafts group.

    Now that I think of it, I guess my former printmaking studio could almost have qualified as such a 'group' though we didn't do much sitting!

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    1. Thanks, Marja-Leena. It was indeed during those 'long ago' (!) days which I experienced as a youngster. Every weekday there were two gatherings. In the mornings we would visit closer members of extended family - coffee and cake was served, and we all had our stitching. In the afternoon, after siesta time and before the evening proper the gatherings included non-family and were often more formal: better coffee cups! Hand work was only taken when the gathering consisted of close friends and family. Usually we went on for the evening stroll round the town after this.

      You are right - the print group I attended some years ago was fun like that, working while we chatted - and as you say, not much sitting!

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