If the axiom “we choose our parents” is to be believed, the decisions I made before my conception are to be commended. It just so happens that both my caregivers were industrious, level-headed, and deeply compassionate individuals with uncompromising morals. I gladly declare that there was contingent communication at the Kiritsis residence and that there was never I time when I wasn’t perceived, made sense of, and responded to in a pertinent manner. I was inquisitive, if not overtly inquisitive with my perambulations in unfamiliar environments, but would swiftly become upset and resort to proximity-seeking behaviors if my caregivers disappeared from sight and remained hidden. Foremost of these episodic autobiographical memories is the unremitting yelling and whimpering that went on during first days at Keon Park kindergarten when I was separated from my interpersonal blanket of security and trust, my paternal grandmother; being yanked from my parents’ grasp within a bustling shopping center and then overrun, possessed, and seized by an alternating dyad of trepidation and fear as a consequence; becoming apprehensive and despondent each Sunday morning when my father left the house for football practice; and seeking solace inside the interlocking arms of my mother when my premeditated actions were not approved of or appreciated. Judging from these emotional and behavioural reactions, one might profess that I was a securely attached child–and a slightly spoiled one at that!
In the Cultural Nature of Human Development, Barbara Rogoff asserts that cultural approaches to child-rearing and care in addition to the particular dynamic buttressing family relations exemplify generational patterns and strategies. From this perspective the inheritance of parental views and values about romantic relationships and finances, for instance, may be incompatible with one’s personal needs because the former crystallized under socio-political forces and circumstances which are no longer existent. Immigrating to urban Australia from an underprivileged, provincial area of Greece proper in the 70s to create a better life for themselves, my parents have always emphasized the importance of accumulating tangible assets along with their prejudiced idea of appropriate, respectable occupations through which such aspirations might be realized.
Their rustic inheritance and communal leanings have permitted multimodal approaches (i.e. herbal remedies and elixirs) to health and healing and fidelity to extended family, qualities inherited by both my brother and I (This also explains my obsession with spagyrics and alchemy). It’s no coincidence that caregiving, instructional, and disciplinary duties associated with my own wellbeing have intermittently been the responsibility of my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. In sharp contradistinction to middle-class Australian families of northern European descent, the traditional Greek ethos demands that children remain accountable and involved with their family of origin irrespective of their age, marital status, and location. Inaugurated before the renowned traditions of the Ottoman Turks, Byzantium, and the Roman Empire ever came to Greece, this core belief continues to be passed down from generation to generation like a golden thread, or better still an Olympian flame.
Moreover, the Greek migrants who disembarked on Australian soil in the 60s and 70s brought with them the hierarchies and constraints of pastoral Greece, including a predilection for romantic relationships founded on the qualities of fidelity, mutuality, and monogamy. While married partners may have embodied differential roles, interests, and characterological traits in the context of the cohesive family unit, they labored unanimously to generate an empathic nest full of material abundance, replete with physical and emotional security. Curtailing individualistic and competitive qualities, the traditional Greek ethos tacitly prioritizes parental responsibilities towards children and active participation in their lives over personal freedom, inner transformation, and independence. For those who choose to have them, children will always come first. Traces of these primordial family virtues have been implicitly present in my romantic and fraternal attachments since early childhood; I cannot recall any past interpersonal relation in which I didn’t freely and willingly fulfil said expectations and desires or offer physical, emotional, and financial support. To give in a selfless and unrequited manner without expectations and to consecrate in honor of another is something I learned from my extended family.
“Our mission in life is service,” my grandmother would always tell me.
It astounds me when I contemplate how comparable my own philosophies are.