When I get up in the morning, I usually turn the TV on, fill the kettle up, and look out of the kitchen window. Invariably, One Tree Hill will be on, and I will allow myself to be sucked in the watery eyes of the characters, with the relief of living someone else’s drama instead of your own. In yesterday’s episode, one of the main characters forgot their own birthday, and everyone around them seemed to have forgotten too. I was sipping on my hot water with lemon, wondering how one could forget such an important day, asking myself how could screenwriters get paid to get away with such far-fetched daily facts.
Today I woke up from a call on my phone, turning around, letting it go to voicemail. Then I received a text. Then another. I opened my eyes, with a frown forming between my brows, wondering what happened so early in the morning. I stood up, walked to the dresser where I charge my phone and looked at the screen. ‘Happy Name Dayyyyy!!‘ it flashed for a second, and then went black. I had forgotten my own name day.
Now, let me explain what a name day is. In Greece, most names correspond to a Saint’s name. In the months, certain Saints have days of celebration, and if a town or village has this Saint as a patron, then there is a big celebration there; accordingly, if you are named after this Saint, it is your celebration as well. You have to treat people with sweets, and in return they give you cards, gifts, and even throw you a party. It’s like a second birthday. And I forgot mine.
For some reason I felt a bit dizzy. I put the phone down, backtracked, and went back to bed. I looked at the ceiling for a couple of minutes, then got up, turned the TV on, filled the kettle and looked out of the kitchen window. In today’s episode, a character found out she got pregnant. I wondered if I needed to pop by Tesco, and get a Clear Blue pregnancy test. Obviously, things are never too far fetched.
My phone rang twice that hour. I first spoke to my dad. He gave me his and my family’s wishes, chatted about everyday things, plans for meeting up, arranging to come by. I have not seen him for about a year, not since I last went to Greece. There was something very soothing and very sad in his voice. I found myself clutching my chest when we spoke, and I realised how much I miss him. I then talked to my mum; she gave me her wishes, made our classic jokes, asked me if I am eating well, if my brother called yet, and if I am happy. She then asked me if I remembered the times that we would make a desert for my name day. And I did. And it brought memories of our old house, and the archaic mixer, and the two teaspoons of brandy that magically turned into half the bottle, and the giggling and the smells, and the floor tiles, and the plastic plates, and the smiles, and the morning after where I would sneak to the fridge and grab a fork and eat the rest of it before she got up, when she was actually sitting in her room waiting for me to finish. And all the memories pushed the back of my eyes with tears, and I had to come to the here and now, and control my voice, and not show how much I missed her.
When we hang up, I sat on the sofa. My tea was lukewarm, and I tried to understand why it bothered me so much that I forgot. The past few weeks have been very hectic; they are very close to a merry-go-round, where you spin and spin and spin and spin, but essentially you remain in the same place, just with weak feet and blurry vision. April seemed to be a month of decisions, leaps of faith, amends, and new beginnings.
I guess the reason it bothered me so much was my fear that I am letting go of important parts of my identity; of forgetting my roots. I always had my Greek friends reminding me of any upcoming name days, birthdays, celebrations. I would see it in the news, read it in the papers, hear it in the street. I am now living in London for the last 5 years, and it has played such a big part in shaping me into the person I am. I feel at home, in ways I never did, and never could, in Athens. I consider London my home now, and I am making a life and a living here. But I would not like to lose the parts of the Greek identity I have come to love. And I think that forgetting my name day made me fear that this is happening. I worried that I allowed all the April drama to suck me in so much that I became a character in my own One Tree Hill. I realised how important it was to realise it. I understood how important it was to act on it.
I got up, wore my running shoes and rushed outside. It was pouring with rain, and minutes later I was sprinting down the street. My chest was tightening, and I found myself pushing harder, running faster, my shins stinging, the rain kissing my face, my hands moving faster, until my whole body got so tense that it had no option but to relax. An hour later, I was in the shower, the hot water washing away all the stiffness that was there 60 minutes earlier.
I got out in time to answer my phone, and it was my partner with plans for the evening. My email inbox notified me of all the well-wishers on Facebook. I looked outside. Even if I did not remember, others did.
I had some more tea, and indulged in some of my favourite chocolate. I looked out of the window, at the rain, at the people. I am now at Costa, having a lemon and poppyseed muffin, and a Roasted Hazelnut Latte. I am looking out of the window, at the rain, at the people.
Happy name day to me.