This weekend is the Greek Festival at St Sophia, the local Greek Orthodox Church. Years ago, when we were new to this community, Beve and I stumbled onto this festival with only about ten dollars cash between us and a veritable 'borgsasmorg' (as our kids called it when they were little), of Greek delights to choose from. You should have seen us that cool September evening, counting our pennies so that we could buy enough tokens to buy a gyro to share, a little Greek salad, and, of course, some baklava. Tokens--you have to have those tokens at the Greek Festival. Money won't do you a bit of good.
Since then, the Greek Festival is as much a part of our September as the beginning of school...if we're not out of town, of course. So today Beve, E (who'd driven up from Seattle for a couple of appointments) and I enjoyed dripping gyros, while a band played and people danced. Children with painted faces ran around eating snow-cones, and teenagers stood together in clumps, talking and whispering. Every year things change a little at the Greek Festival. This year, when we went to find a place to eat our dinner under the large tent ,there was a sign tacked up beside a roped-off section, which read, "Beer Garden--no one under 21 admitted." We chose to sit outside the 'Garden'.though once we sat down we thought we'd have done as well to have not entered the tent at all. It was pretty hard to hear...
But the gyros. To die for, I'm hear to tell you. Really. But we were saving ourselves for the main event. Dessert. Now here's the thing. Since April, I've almost completely eliminated sugar, fat, dairy and bread from my diet. All in an effort to feel healthier. And it's worked. I actually do feel better. I stopped eating these things and almost immediately began sleeping better, and all the aches and pains have been minimized. Everything other than the nerve pain on my left side (which cannot be fixed by diet).
All that to say, it's been months since I've had dessert. And tonight it wasn't just dessert, but BAKLAVA. And I love baklava. I can actually remember the first time I ever tasted it. I'd gone to visit my sister, the Dump, at Cal Tech for Thanksgiving her freshman (and my sophomore) year of college. We went to a little burger place off campus in Pasadena, and afterwards she took me to a little pastry shop. Told me I had to try this gooey bar-type cookie-ish thing with a name I couldn't pronounce. I took one bite and wanted to face-plant on the whole pastry shelf. I can't believe I remember that, but I bet if I called my sister, she'd not only also remember it, but be able to name the restaurants. When it comes to food (especially dessert!), her memory is flawless.
Tonight we ate a few (ok, many!) Greek donuts (sorry I can't remember the correct name) because E loves them the way I love Baklava. So I won't sleep as well tonight. So I'll ache more tomorrow. It's almost worth it. Right?
I do love this wonderful festival, though. I love that the little old ladies of St. Sophia wear crosses around their necks and sunglasses on their eyes as they stand over hot deep fat fryers. I love that the old men do what the women tell them to do, and the young come running when their parents tell them. I love that we see people we know, and that others meet their friends there and that, for all that this city we live in isn't a small town, it sometimes feels that way, when we meet so many people we know everywhere we go. I love that community doesn't have to happen only within the walls of a church or the walls of the specific church you happen to go to, but should be a part of what you do when you're out living your life on the street, and in your work and walking your dog, and doing your shopping and talking over your fence to your neighbor. That's what Jesus intended when He talked about loving our neighbors, of course. He intended that we'd live locally, beside each other, you know? Not anonymously, but known.
In the back parking lot of St. Sophia Church here in Bellingham, you can watch this lived out, this community--eating, sharing, giving, dancing, living--every September. It's sweet to eat and sweet to be reminded.