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We Are All Greek: Storytelling’s Coming of Age Through Film

“Toula, eat something.” The story of my life and that of any other Cypriot or Greek child brought up abroad. Just change the name and there you go!

This is from the first installment of My Greek Fat Wedding, which I quoted from a lot in the runup to my own wedding.

I married a nice Greek boy and had nice Greek babies, which I also try to feed.

Then the second movie came out.

The film spoke to me more about acceptance than anything else at the time. I had started to feel accepted for who I always really was and who I was showing the world.

Hey, it is not easy being a writer in a community that expects you to be a teacher or a banker.

And now to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 and how it fits in perfectly with my life right now.

If you are expecting a review of the film, stop reading now.

If you want to have a bit of a cry and want to realise just how important family is, then get your tissues, here we go!

my big fat greek wedding

Head of the family

A man is the head of the family, but the woman is the neck. Maybe Gus Portokalos was the head of his family, but Eva Gregoriou is the head of mine – always was and always will be. She is the head, the neck and everything other part that makes a family. If there was a tail involved, she would have one.

She still has it all, even though it is fading.

At nearly 80, she forgets. She calls me up to ask me how to make makaronia tou fournou – something she made day after day for our restaurant in England. “How do I know?” I answer. I never had to learn; she always made it.

Then it will be “what did we say we are making for the kids today?” That is easy—chicken nuggets or spaghetti.

She used to rage this woman. Such would rage and fight so much that she would light the world on fire and I used to rage against her. She would say “I don’t know why I talk to you, I say I will shut up but I don’t.” We don’t rage anymore. I get angry sometimes that she does not get angry with me, she just says “whatever you say agapi mou.” And I get enraged again. Fight woman, fight me!! Put me in my place, you were so good at that.

Now the weeds grow in the garden, the street around the house is dirty, and things are falling off the walls.

Her crown has fallen to the side for the rest of the world but we keep it in place for as long as we can.

Maria Portokalos – the mum – in the movie has trouble remembering.

Toula says “Hi, Mom. It’s me, Toula. I’m your daughter.” To which Maria replies “No. My daughter is young and beautiful.”

They say the mind grows backwards after a certain age. It remembers the past more than the present. I saw it with my grandmother, and no matter if my mum reaches 100, I will never call her old or accept that she is past it – I still won’t let her wear granny clothes – what, with a body like that that is finally fit enough to be a size 10?

Going back to your roots

“Give me a word, any word and I will show you the root of that word is Greek.”

Gus Portokalos never went back to the village he grew up in, but my parents came back to stay. It took them thirty years of working hard, but they did it.

I don’t know what it is about being buried at home that has made it such a big idea for our family, but it is. Not just my immediate family, but for my extended Cypriot family that lives or lived abroad.

My mum’s brother died in England at the time when Covid was at its heights. He had always said he wanted to be buried in his village in Cyprus, but circumstances being what they were, he couldn’t be brought back. So now he sits in an urn on my aunt’s mantelpiece, waiting to come back to the soil that grew the fruit that sent him to a better life.

In the movie, Gus Portokalos goes back to Greece in an urn and is spread among the roots of the same olive tree he used to sit under as a child.

It makes you wonder about the power of having children and the power of telling them stories about your life. They may not make sense to them at the time, but as they grow, the stories echo back to them, and they are relived.

My mum tells us stories about her grandmother wanting to eat grapes but couldn’t because she was diabetic, and how her brother threw a pen knife at their feed when they were young. She still has the scars.

Replacing your mother

My mother is the glue that holds us together. She will never be replaced, lets get that clear. No matter how many children me or my sister have, we will never be that kind of mother – they just don’t make them like that anymore.

This is where the movie really hit home for me.

No one was the head of family anymore in the movie. No one cooked big dinners. They didn’t have everyone in their business all the time. The kitchen was neat and tidy and quiet.

grandmother

I am bringing up a daughter who flings the pillows on the floor, who leaves her shoes and socks anywhere, who takes all her toys out of the box just because she can, and guess what, just leaves them there. But my mum loves her to bits. She says without the kids, she has no life.. but what happens when she is not there anymore.. when I won’t have to go downstairs to their house before taking my daughter to school just so they can say good morning to each other?

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is not a great film, it is more of an advertisement for Greece and a bit of silliness, but it speaks to me. It brings all my fears right front and centre and makes me want to rage against the dying of how family life once was, not just for me, but for all of us who come home at night to take to our screens.

Sometimes it takes a little silliness to bring out the real meaning behind a story and soften it for those who can relate.

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