Strengthening Stomachs and Ears - My Family Travels

Julie nearly fainted. Rachel spilled water on her potatoes. George kept eating lamb. The band continued its strains and the groom’s family danced.

            I, though fazed, continued to politely consume the food set in front of us, aware that this lamb came from the groom’s own herd and also aware that undigested food particles were stacking in my esophagus, there being no room left in my stomach. I had gorged myself on sixteen different kinds of pastry and various incarnations of goat cheese that morning; had ravenously welcomed bread with goat cheese spread, egg frittata, vegetable pasta, dakos, watermelon, and honeydew for lunch; and had robustly partaken of bread rolls, moussaka, black eyed pea salad, three different dishes involving lamb meatballs, snails, goat cheese, yogurt with honey, watermelon, and honeydew for dinner not two hours previously. I was not hungry. I knew I would awaken to another feast of pastries in just a few hours. Katerina, the innkeeper at the Keramos Inn, did not acknowledge the concept of fullness. But I was compelled to stick potatoes in lemon brine, lamb, stuffed grape leaves, plums, watermelon, and cheese pie down my throat. I patiently and robotically dragged morsels towards my lips. My motions were only impeded by periodic spasms caused by frequent gunfire.
            Julie angrily snatched for a grape leaf as another shot was fired a few feet away. We all showed our discomfort in pronounced tics, not yet having become accustomed to this particular show of celebration. George, our guide and interpreter, had assured us that it was safe. None of us believed him. But he had told us it was custom for the men to bring their pistols to the party and discharge them into the air whenever they felt the need to herald the impending union.
            My five friends and I were in a village called Zaros on the Greek island of Crete. We found ourselves at the groom’s party, held three days before the wedding. It was much like a wedding party found elsewhere.   There was dancing, copious food and drink, friendships built upon, avoidances cultivated, and mischief indulged. The only difference was that the square was lit by both starlight and the flash of guns.
            Halfway through our meal even Julie agreed that the shots had become routine and unsurprising. We had adjusted. The pride of newfound immunities even prodded me to swiftly eat an entire plum. George grinned. Pointing towards the entrance of the square, he began to relate a story. “During World War Two the Nazis came to his house.”   We saw a hoary man shuffling through the gate.  “The family had escaped and when they came back, for some reason, one of the Nazis had dropped this.” George gestured to the object: a 70 year old automatic rifle. “It still works.” As soon as the gun was handed to the groom shells gleefully littered the ground. Wizened men and jaded children alike turned to chuckle at the reactions of the American girls.

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