It took some convincing to get my mother to get excited about picking a Mediterranean cruise that stopped in Greece. She just didn’t seem excited about Greece as much as she was about the ports in Italy.
“But think of all the food!” I said, using my most persuasive voice as we were planning over the phone. “The olives! The feta!”
“Eh,” she said. “I don’t like any of those.”
“Oh well,” I said. “We’ll find something there you like.”
Six months later we found ourselves in the Mediterranean and on the little island of Santorini for just a day of exploring.
We disembarked our ship, the Celebrity Millennium to find ourselves looking up at the whitewashed homes that were hanging on the cliffs of Santorini.
We boarded our tour bus, which took us to the top to the village of Oia with its spectacular views, charming houses, winding narrow streets, cobblestone walkways and domed churches. I had the feeling I always get when I’m clear across the ocean in a place I’d only previously seen in movies or on television: Am I really here or am I just having the most awesome dream?
Please don’t wake me up.
We were free to wander the village for several hours and we soon were lured into a jewelry shop by a man who noticed my traveling bag with Salt Lake 2002 embroidered on it–my favorite piece of gear I was given as a contract worker for the Salt Lake Winter Games. He was chatting me up, asking about the Olympic Games and before we knew it, we were in his shop looking at jewelry.
I had my heart set on a ring. Not sure why. I was not a ring-wearing kind of gal. But I was 39 and my chances of marriage seemed far reaching at this point in my life. So why not get myself a ring? The man who lured me in the store was on the other side of a long glass display, bringing out one ring after another for me to try and putting on his best charming self to close the deal.
But darn it, my fingers are huge. I mean, like linebacker huge. I can never find rings that fit my sausage-like digits. After trying on the third ring, my disappointment really began to wear me down, and I told my mother, “Let’s just go. There’s nothing here that will work for me.”
And then the man reached across the glass display and took my hands in his and looked into my eyes and said very seriously, “Here in Greece we are easy going. You must learn to be easy going.”
I just stood there. I was nonplussed by his sudden open counsel to me.
Easy going. That’s so not me. There’s not one part of me that’s easy going.
But I capitulated. “Okay,” I said. “I will be more easy going.”
He then brought out a ring and said, “This will be perfect.” I really liked it. It was a simple silver band that curved like a stretched out “s” up at the top with three tiny diamonds. But it wasn’t perfect as the man promised. Again, I was like Cinderella’s step sister who couldn’t get that stinkin’ shoe on. That ring just wouldn’t fit. This time I feigned “easy going” so to avoid another lecture.
“No worries,” he said. “We will resize it to fit you.”
The man brought out his keychain of round metal circles where I slipped my finger into one that fit and then he said to come back in two hours.
“Remember!” He shouted to us as we walked out on to the cobble streets. “Easy going!”
So off we went to explore. After a hearty and delicious lunch, which I’m proud to say my mother enjoyed (no olives or feta), we found a pastry shop that was hugging the end of the cliff, overlooking the Aegean Sea. Mom tried her first baklava and I had crepes. The sugary sweetness, the breeze, the view and my new-found conviction of being more “easy going” made me just want to not go back on the cruise ship. I wanted to just stay in Oia and live out the rest of my life. Why couldn’t I do that? I could learn to be “easy going” here in a heart beat. I could be an artist. Or a musician. Or maybe a writer and live in one of the white cave homes overlooking the sea. My life would be simple and uncomplicated, I imagined.
Baklava and crepes do that to you, I think.
It was time to go back to the jewelry store and we followed the cobblestone sidewalk back to where our afternoon began. Our man was waiting outside the door of his store either looking for his next victim or waiting for us. Or perhaps both. We went to the same glass display and he slid the ring effortlessly on my finger and any memory of sausage fingers faded.
We left the store and wandered around the village a little more before taking the tram down the mountain to where the bus picked us up to return us to our ship.
To this day, I still look at this ring and am reminded of my afternoon in Oia and when a Greek man taught me about the need to be “easy going.” And I’m pretty sure that trip changed my mom’s opinion of Greece because if there’s baklava on the menu she always orders it.