Growing Up With Yiayia in an Ethnic Family - or how do you survive living next door?
Updated: May 11
Whether it’s Yiayia, Baba, Grandmother, Teta, Nana, Nonna, or Babushka, living near your immigrant family has its challenges and rewards
Shortly, it will have been 25 years since our Yiayia, Theodora, passed away. Theodora (or Dorothy as the restaurant staff and customers knew her) was married to Elias (known as Louie by the aforementioned people) and had three children that produced a total nine grandchildren. They had five granddaughters before the four grandsons (or I should say “suns”) came along. I think God was testing my ethnic grandparents (and me) by giving them the five granddaughters before the first grandson came along. In case you don’t know, but with ethnic families like mine, having a male heir is paramount to keeping the name alive — letting alone village rules of keeping the property intact.
But I digress.
So in honor of this upcoming significant memorial date, I decided to write down 25 of my recollections of “life with Yiayia.” Small and quiet, she knew, and practiced very well, the art of “how to get what you want without asking.” I really should have paid more attention to the technique…..but here we go.
A look into the life of an immigrant and her first generation grandchild……
Entering the house of any family member was never done with a knock or an invite. You just opened the door, yelled something, and walked in. This was especially true when you lived next door…..
And speaking of living next door — all of your life would be dedicated to buying one huge parcel of land for all of your children, their spouses and your grandchildren to be able to live together. Doesn’t matter what part of town it is located. My father is still reminding me that there is one acre left for we when I decide to “get smart” and build our house there.
Always buy a brick house — whatever invading guerrilla fighters or bandits will not be able to break in easily. And side note — always make sure you have more than one bathroom. Bathrooms are important because Papou (also known by Grandpa in English) takes A LOT OF TIME in there…
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