We’re in Ancona, on the Adriatic in these days, staying with Maurizio’s family. On Thursday we’re going to Greece to visit our friends Yiannis and Jo Ann Pantanizopoulos who have a house by the sea. Their handsome, kind and very droll son Niko was the inspiration for my Irma’s husband, also Niko. You see them in this picture taken at a recent Easter celebration.
Thinking of them brings back a vivid childhood memory. It was the years of brutal Greek dictatorship and my father was sharing his lab in Rahway, NJ, with a brilliant Greek research chemist, exiled from his country for reasons my father explained tersely were “his own business.” This Greek, whom I vaguely remembered was called George, had received a cassette from home via a circuitous chain of connections. But it was an unusual speed and size and he had no way to hear it.
We had a tape player. My father borrowed others and George came over with the cassette wrapped like a precious relic. I could stay with them in the living room, my father had agreed, on the condition that I not pester anybody with questions. After much discussion, the men rigged a system that slowly rendered the gibberish more human-sounding. At a certain point, George stiffed and said quietly, “One more.” My father carefully threaded a new tape and began the final transfer. A young man was speaking; I understood that much. “My brother,” George whispered. Then an older woman. He covered his eyes.
My father drew me into the kitchen. From there, peeking around the doorway, I could see George hunched motionless on the couch as more voices rose from the tape.