The Schedule (Kefalonia, Greece)
My friend Petra always loved to sleep, since the time we were in college. Years later, she was single and carefree while I was already married with a two-year old daughter. One summer, she invited us to spend a week in her family house in Kefalonia, the Greek island in the Ionian Sea. My husband couldn’t make it and we planned an idyllic first-time all-girls holiday, although I didn’t expect that I would need four vacations to recover from Greece. Don’t get me wrong, the place was fantastic, but the problem was our daily schedule malfunction: Petra was in bed every day until mid-afternoon, while my toddler was in full blast by the crack of dawn. Both wanted my company and I wanted to be with them. Greece couldn’t be more blue, white and sunny, but my vacation was, let’s say, challenging.
On the third day, I had already figured out a strategy to keep my early morning sanity: I pushed my daughter in the stroller for a long, exploratory morning walk. At seven, still dizzy with sleepiness, I gave her a cup of milk and off we went to town. The sun was always bright and I loved the warmth on my shoulders, the smell of salt and fish getting stronger as we went down the steep hill.
By the end of the hill there was a boardwalk with many shops alongside, the fabric of Greek life unfolding in morning light. We quickly learned to buy feta cheese from a small bodega on the corner, where a barrel half my size with the fresh cheese was always by the door. The old vendor with white apron, thick beard and truthful smile, used to take a chunk of cheese the size of a brick from the water in the barrel as soon as he saw the stroller and myself. He then separated my piece for the day and gave a little slice to Laura. She said “thank you” and laughed. He said efharisto and laughed back.
Next stop, pastry shop and food market. The smell of sweet basil was always inebriating. Every day we picked a different type of fat olive. They were all delicious. We ate them on the spot, killing time, before we reached our sacred final destination: the ice cream parlor. We bought our cones and always enjoyed them contemplating the ocean. When the second cone was already melting between our fingers, the sun was high the sky. Time go to back. The last steps up the hill before we reached the green gates of the house were difficult with the heat. I needed a nap.
The second turn
They always kept the shutters closed, so the house was fresh during the day. Getting inside after being in the sun was a breeze. We used to go upstairs tiptoeing not to wake up Petra. All I wanted at that point was to crawl into bed myself and fall asleep with my daughter, lulled by the room’s constant smell of orange blossoms. As soon as Laura closed her eyes, Petra would come by the door with puffy eyes and her long, thick brown hair all over the place.
“Good morning! Are you guys still asleep?”
When I started telling her about our morning adventures, she was too confused to handle the conversation.
“Let’s have coffee first”, she said.
We talked until 3 o’clock, when the child was up again and that’s Greek best time to go out and explore the beaches.
We drove, lied in the sun, bathed, gossiped and made sand castles until the end of the day. Laura and Petra were delighted and rested. I kept trying to sleep on the beach, but didn’t succeed most of the time. Later, we always had dinner in the main square, where families talk loud and drink cold Retsina, the Greek white dry wine. After coming home, Petra and I still had our last drink and talked until I couldn’t open my eyes. I went to bed late as a carefree single woman, lulled by the sea and the wine. I woke up the next morning at 7, with the sound of my child crying for food. I was on duty, on mom’s schedule, all over again.