Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Papou's L'eggs Eggs

Because we often lived at a significant distance from Detroit, I didn't visit my maternal grandparents often, but when I did, I could count on several things for certain: I would sleep in a small, cozy room under a heavy, hand-crocheted afghan. We would eat roast chicken and potatoes, all cooked together in the same dish with olive oil and lemon. Yiayia, my grandmother, would have baked some traditional Greek treats in advance (typically these were twisted ropes of sweet dough, the cookies known as koulouria). We would sit in the living room on green (?) silk- or satin-upholstered, plastic-covered furniture to catch up on family stories. First, though, before too much talking, Papou would peer at me through his browline glasses, which had thick black rims across only the tops of the lenses; in them, he looked like a stylish man of the 1950s, despite this being the 1970s. His eyes looked dark, enormous, emotional behind their glass shields. And this was my favorite moment: He would reach in the drawer of a side-table and withdraw, or pull from some other hidden location, a white plastic egg that reminded me of Easter and that always contained a small treat for me, often a quarter or two, that would rattle around inside the large hollow egg. The eggs, which you cannot find anymore, were the clever packaging for L'eggs brand pantyhose, which my grandmother apparently wore. You can't get much more 1970s, or faux-French chic in marketing, than L'eggs (it seemed a guarantee at the time that if you put Le, La, or L' in front of just about anything it would sell better). I loved cracking open, again and again, the two halves of the egg. I loved the quarters, or the candy, or whatever else might have been put inside. But most of all, I remember loving the fact that my grandfather had rescued the pantyhose egg from its status as wasteful trash and had thought to save it just for me. At the end of our visit, I'd take the eggs home—I'm sure I had a collection at one point—and long after the original contents were worn past use, long after the subsequent treats were gone (eaten or spent), I would play with the empty shells, filling them with all the imagined, magical substances my five-year-old mind could invent. No matter what I found to fill the eggs, though, I always knew there was one thing too big to fit inside: my grandfather's love and the meaning behind these small gestures of his affection.

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