There will always be a voice inside me telling me that it’s ok to create out of the lines. It’s just that once you go out of them, you have to fill in with colours every tiny corner of the paper.
Many years have passed since Argyro first told me and and I guess I just adopted it because everything she was advising me looked like a ‘golden recipe’ in my child eyes. No, I cannot possibly call Argyro my ‘nanny’ because she simply wasn’t. How do you call the person with whom you walk, cook, sunbath, draw and study together, when you are 6? The person who finds your idea of composing a “Deaf Mermaids’ Musical” super cool and plausible for a 2nd-grade of primary school essay and patiently listens to your imagination unfolding while cooking fasolakia (aka greek turkish-style beans!)? She taught me how to draw, paint, write, walk without complaining, study without help and certainly behave politely and, above all, act kindly. She showed me how to wash and braid my hair ALONE, completely disregarding the fact that it was immense, curly and unmanageable. For her, everything could be done, or better put, everything could be taught. She listened to my endless (and painful) hours of practising the piano, when at the time, my Russian piano teacher has convinced me that if I practice rigorously, he would take me to Moscow and train me to be the next big star of the classical music scene!
When my parents got divorced and consequently, I changed family structure, town, house and school, I was remarkably insensitive and drama-free. That’s because I knew she would board the same boat to Athens with me and my mum (and the parrot!), and would stay with us for a few months. So, in my mind my life would not be tragically different, since she would be around! I have tried to call her my ‘educator’ but I find it too serious, my ‘friend’ but it sounds too light-weighted, my ‘second mum’ but she was super young when she was taking care of me. Hence, I concluded that every time someone asks I can only express who she is in periphrasis: “Argyro is the lady who raised me, whom I adore and I consider as my family”.
Today Argyro has two gorgeous little girls, who fill my life with pure bliss when they run around me, drag my skirt to hug me and ask in the cutest way ‘is Emmanouela coming back soon?’ They remind me of myself being around Argyro, endlessly talking and asking questions and stubbornly refusing to exit the house unless she lets me choose the skirt I want (mum, no normal 90s little girl liked wearing jean jumpsuits with adidas stan smith!)
Argyro has always been present in the memory snapshots of my childhood in Rethymno, filling my child heart with unquestionable love and tenderness. I can safely say she is my ‘idol mum’ and an indispensable existence, along with my dad’s family, that makes my first step in Cretan soil feel like returning home.
When I stumbled upon this telephone booth in Covent Garden, I immediately thought of her. It was a completely instinctive association my brain made before me realising why. It seems that her voice secretly accompanies me in life, as I grow older. Among all the things she is for me, she is also my first teacher. They say that the best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see. Argyro opened my eyes and mind in the possibility of creating out of the lines, and, then let me colour it by myself, the way I have imagined it to be. Then I started my journey into formal education and for 14 years, I was taught how to ‘paint by numbers’, perform by numbers, express myself in numbers, prove with numbers, talk in numbers. The more aligned I was with the ‘lines’, the more successful I was, or so I thought. I stopped drawing because I simply considered myself untalented to do so.
And in the meantime, I completely forgot how good I once was in colouring out of the lines. One day, I discovered in our country house some folders my mum keeps with all the drawings, writings, cards and little constructions I made as a kid. I opened it and an entire universe of colours unfolded in front of my eyes. Boats with 10 floors and little colourful windows, chaises longues in sandy beaches where the sky is always blue and the sun bright yellow, air planes making their way through colourful clouds, birthday cards with confetti and primary school essays with my tiny letters but hugely imaginative ideas, characters, places and stories. Argyro has taught me how to create out of the lines, long time ago. It was me who forgot.
As we grow old, we all try to draw the perfect elephant and colour him grey. That’s how far our eyes can see. In the meantime, we gradually shut our child eyes that could once plentifully write about blue elephants. Argyro, thanks for igniting my imagination when I was still tiny and had two braids! Digging in my memories can now show me the way to step out of the lines again, colour with reckless abandon and create my own (adulthood) blue elephants…