|My Great Aunt Xionoula. Our Blood Ties Brought Me To Indiana|
The highly anticipated THANKSGIVING break had finally arrived! It came at the most appropriate time as well- I needed a short term exile from the city after a solid 3 months of the boom boom bang.
Because the 5 day trip was so fraught with events and details, I think the best way of sharing it with you, is to tailor the blog with my favourite parts in the natural order of its occurrence- a day to day structure if you like.
Day 1: November 24th 2010
Technically, it is half a day. My flight was in the evening, but it took me the whole day to gather all the gifts and clothes for the trip. With nicely (and newly) shaped eyebrows; a Thanksgiving outfit and Arabic dates to dish left, right and center, I was all zipped up and ready to leave the big city. Oddly enough, I didn’t leave from NYC; I left from Newark, New Jersey. Although this was a bit of a nuisance, I was able to tick off another state on my ‘Visited States’ list. On the NJ transit, that took me to Newark I was sat next to a 50 something year old. He had an ipad out to recommence his Charlotte Bronte perusal. Well; he needn’t have bothered because we got to chatting- for 17 minutes. I managed to get his Wisconsin childhood details alongside his catalog of travel experiences.
At the airport, I beat the holiday chaos with my swift pace and sharp direction- but I had to refuel with a cream cheese bagel and raspberry yoghurt. During my wait, I was unfortunate enough to have been next to a lady who felt it necessary to stretch her hamstring and general leg area up against the wall. The skin surrounding her eyes creased and grooved with every tense stretch. I was embarrassed for her. The worst was when people started giving me looks as if to say ‘Is she with you?’ ‘na uh’ I thought- then every passer by and I would exchanged mutual expressions of confusion. Luckily the weird lady’s seemingly ritual oddness came to an appropriate end. It was time to board. A little girl enthusiastically stated: ‘Indiana, HERE WE COME’. I couldn’t help but share the same exuberance, but to avoid any suspicious gapes, I manifested a more discreet show of emotions.
On board with us were military troops who had been given leave to spend Thanksgiving with their family. Little boys and girls were so enthralled by their being there that they detached themselves from any previous distraction and examined every detail. Through the course of their public scrutiny, their jaw dropped mouths had collected a swirl of saliva, dampening and moistening their lips. I myself stood and observed in admiration.
After an unsettlingly bumpy ride I was in Indiana! My Aunt Mary and Uncle George had picked me up to take me to Carmel, Indiana (40 minute drive). One of the first things I noticed, or rather one of the first attacks my body received was the BRITTLE COLD. Within seconds the cold was munching at my feet and my eczema patches split open again after a year of maintenance. But all was alleviated with the plentiful serving of Mousakka- my Aunt Mary had given me a hearty plateful. Mmmmmmm it was good to be in a home environment!
Day 2: November 25th 2010
Following a deep slumber, a strong stretch and a much needed splash of water on my face, I rifled through my clothes and picked out my Thanksgiving outfit ready for the big day. My Aunt Mary had the TV on in the background when the MACY's Thanksgiving parade grasped my attention..'That's near my building!!!' I'm not going to lie- my district looked as good as ever, and seeing it on screen was WOW. All was a bit chaotic in the Pappas household, everything needed for the dinner was loosely placed around the house making the hunt for them exhaustabley difficult- having said that my Aunt Mary's curlers were firmly in tact!
We were going to my cousin Alex's home, where her husband David and two girls Zoe and Jacquie had taken on the task of hosting the dinner- every guest brought a dish of something to shoulder the burden of responsibility. Before I dive into the food detail..I thought I'd show you a photo of the neighborhood in which Alex and her family live in.
Gloomy musty inky black skies with a torrent of rainwater- maybe it's a good thing Thanksgiving is an indoor celebration? Even though the weather was not agreeable, we turned our backs to the darkness and opened our mouths for the heaviest of heavy dinners. But even before we tucked in, all 30 of us (cousins, aunts, uncles, godparents) tightly congregated around the kitchen area for a little speech. Alex had lovingly welcomed me for my first Thanksgiving dinner with 'We are so happy to have you here with us'. In moments such as these I find myself on a different wavelength. I'm at a loss of articulate words, so I just responded with an unoriginal 'Thank you so much for having me!' If only I could have repaid the gesture with an eloquent response, ah well. With a brief toast undergone, my Uncle Jeff took the role of saying Grace. Head pointing South (but with a few Northern peeps during the length of the speech), hands clasped together and a grateful temperament. I was ready to enjoy this abundance of good food with a level of gratitude at the forefront of my mind.
From stuffing to cranberry sauce to yams to tinges of Greek food. This was a feast, for your eyes, ears, and tummies. But I stress that there is a prerequisite required in order to fully enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, and that is to have already expanded your stomach prior to this indulgence of extreme measure. Luckily, my stomach alters its length and width for any given occasion, be it planned or impromptu. My belly was full of love after the 4 servings of the main course and 2 of the dessert. But I had had an 8 month food baby by 4pm, and by 6pm the food baby was crowning away- needless to say, this was discomforting.I still had the capacity to devour more though! I was swallowing so much food, that during conversations I was swallowing my words too!
|My Cousin Christina Showing Off Her Capacity For Food|
Thanksgiving naps are as much a tradition as the dinner itself. I sunk my newly achieved 10 pound weight gain into the soft comfort of a lounger, and drifted in and out of a Turkey based dream while the American Football was subtly blaring in the background. I was in the heaviest of hazes that I no longer felt the grasp of my body, but funnily enough felt light as air- the scales retract this feeling.
|The Meat Sweats Require A Break|
|Me And Zo Zo|
|My Cousin Jamie And I Ready To Expand Our Bellies|
|Christina And I|
By the time we half digested this spectacular amount of food, my cousins and I went to another house to digest further- top tip: lying on your stomach does NOT help. If anything it hurts more and you risk coughing up clots of stuffing! So at my other cousin's home we all sat and chatted and filled in on lost time. It's wonderful to have a family.
Day 3: November 26th 2010
I had the most glorious of sleeps that night in a curled foetal position and half my face under the warm sheets...mmmmm......
The family gatherings continued for the day, but under the roof of my Great Aunt. As expected, I was greeted with a full embrace of both a hug and a plate of food. The hellish nightmare of revisiting that overstuffed bodily state was fast becoming a tangible torment- but it's only polite to savor isn't it?
For the record, the term 'limit' is indisputably expelled this time of year, because right after brunch, my cousins and I took a meandering drive around Carmel, heading towards downtown Indianapolis for a meal.
Of course, downtown Indianapolis bares little resemblance to downtown Manhattan, but it still has charm. It covers a 10 block radius, so it REALLY doesn't resemble downtown Manhattan at all!
|A Modest City|
Would you believe me if I said we had the munchies? In true Midwestern style, we planted our swelling rear ends at a bar/restaurant that followed an unhealthy mantra 'Eat Heavy'. But the aforementioned food baby had shrunk back into a fetus- it was time to give it some life with the help of a greasy grubby gorgeous cheeseburger. I don't even know how to describe the oil situation, it was that bad. Our waiter looked like he enjoyed a burger or 3 during his 15 minute breaks. Oh my poor hardened arteries! The melted, oil dripping cheese curled on my flat tongue, the burger bits nested between my teeth, the seeds gathered at the gums, my teeth's natural coating had been smeared off and had been replaced with a tomato juice enamel. But hold the pickles please. The french fries fight for room in my mouth, the water (healthy drink option) waters it all down. Pheewww such a good experience. Although, this consumption proved to be a strenuous work out, as the beads of sweat formed on my upper and lower lip testified by weariness.
As I waddled out into the sub zero climes, a numbness shot right through my body from both the food and the cold. The 2 block walk to the Basketball stadium was to be the most challenging of treks ever to have been combated. Yes, I went to a Basketball game! It was the Indiana Pacers vs. Oklahoma City Thunders. A low key kind of game perhaps, but with a bolt of enthusiasm and energy. It wasn't just us cousins who went- the WHOLE family had tickets to go. We were practically on the floor as well! I had been to a baseball game back in New York in September to watch the Yankees vs. Red Sox (a big deal game), so it was nice to have a change of sports
|Let's Go Pacers, Let's Go!!!|
|Tensions Ran High|
Needless to say, we did not attempt to squeeze anymore food into our already congested stomachs. But we did shake off the food with a few busting moves in support of the Pacers! I wish I had paid close attention to the game itself, but I was soo excited to just be there! You know the bits in between a game, when the players are huddled to discuss their defense, and the spectators have the opportunity to be on TV as they strut their stuff? I WAS ON TV x 2. The screens had plastered a 'Shake What You Got' sign, and me being me, I shot right up to boogie on down with my cousins. When the cameras turned to us, and the screen had a big version of me on it I lost consciousness and relied on my dancing license to just make the most of my screen time. It was absolutely hilarious, I didn't stare at the screen that much, but I can say with conviction that my dance moves were probably illegal. The second time round, I was much more conservative and adopted a moderate dance style.
I vaguely remember high 5-ing a 15 year old or so boy after the Pacers got an unbelievable shot and we were bouncing up and down- my belly was not liking this.
|My Cousins and I Huddled Together For A Lovely Snapshot|
Unfortunately I have to start my sentence with: After our defeat (booo) my cousins and I went to a bar within the stadium to relieve the stress of the game with a cold pint. To my amazement, my tummy was begging for some filling. The untimely moans and groans stunned me. What??? Seriously? AGAIN!! Luckily, my cousins were on the same page as me with the sudden urge for more food. We said our goodbyes for the day and went to 'White Castle'. This place is a heart attack waiting to happen. I will resist the details, as I am sure you can only imagine the contents of the burger packets. Literally the most unnecessary 1am binge ever. I'm going to make myself feel better by claiming it helped bare the cold!
And once again, I got home and put myself to bed- the bed began to form a dent from beneath. uh oh.
Day 4: November 27th 2010
My Aunt Mary is as doting as they come. Whether you are family, friends or just someone, she will accommodate for your EVERY need. I didn't want to load unwarranted strain on her, so I did things myself and got on with it. But she is Greek. It is in a Greek woman's nature to fuss, question, re-question, solve, tidy, ask, clean, spoil people and care. For breakfast, she whipped up a cracking good meal- a cracking good breakfast for me constitutes a meal that is full and big. Again, you can imagine what was on my plate(s). What was scary (in hindsight) was the amount of hours it took me to eat again- 2.5 hours. My cousins and I went to a Mexican restaurant to snap at the tortilla chips and slurp the cheese! We actually went to watch a college football game. Again, I didn't pay that much attention- my attention was diverted to the food, glorious food. After that nourishing session was up, my cousins and I went to Clay Terrace, an outdoor shopping area.
|Does Gilmore Girls Spring To Mind?|
|My Cousins Jamie and Katherine with Slavo|
In between the outdoor grating cold and the indoor welcoming warmth I soaked up this truly American locale. I felt like I was walking the tracks of a movie site, it was quite the visceral experience, as I have always wanted to have it! Now it's in my box of memories.
By the time we had walked the length of the shopping district, we allowed our disheveled bodies to thaw in the car. It was off to my Great Aunt's house once again.
Because I was due to go back to New York again the following day, I said my bittersweet goodbyes and went back to another cousin's house to watch a movie.
|Old Fashioned Gentility|
Day 5: November 28th 2010
Back to business as usual, and back to New York. Luckily, I wasn't too down at all, I was soooo thrilled to be going back to the big bad city!
But before I headed off, I wanted to mark my stay with some gorgeous photos which can only be labeled as 'American Shots'.
|Jamie And I. I Was Obsessed With The House Behind Us|
At the airport, I was getting a tingle in my feet- I was looking forward to NYC. Truth be told, these two regions are worlds a part. Each is so far removed from the other I can't even draw up any comparisons. But that was the beauty right there; I wanted a change from New York and this was as stark a change as they come!
All the things one probably hates about New York like the putrid smells, the fat rats, the balls of spit and the rude code of conduct are warm reminders that I've come home.
Nevertheless, I have the image below lingering in my mind as a token of the PERFECT time I had in Indiana.