101 years of memories
Reflecting on my yiayia’s death earlier this month at the grand age of 101, some life lessons come to mind
Never stop dreaming. As a young girl on Kythera, Stamatoula (known as Stella) Cassmiatis would often gaze at the ocean liners passing by for distant lands. Little did she know that at age 22 she too would bound for Australia as a newlywed.
Take a chance and hope for the best. Endless cooking for customers at The Royal Café in Boonah near Ipswich became her every day. Child rearing (4 children) and the cementing of cherished friendships with other Greeks soon followed.
Believe in the power of community. Stella and Antonis formed part of the fundraising committee to build a new church, the Dormition of the Theotokos in Brisbane. As the church celebrates 50 years in February, the hard work and dedication of people like my grandparents to keep the Greek spirit alive – is a testament to Greek migrants all over Australia.
The importance of grandparents. Their sheer presence brings together by default the extended family. Seeing yiayia on special holiday celebrations was a must (for who knows how much longer we were lucky to have her). Each year on her birthday, her granddaughters christened with her name, would pose for an annual ‘Stamatoula’ photo.
Preserving Greek sayings such as, ‘na ta exatosteseis’ – yiayia cringed every time someone wished her this, especially in her 90s and even more so, when she turned 99. Once she became 100, instead of saying ‘xronia polla’, we replaced this with, ‘xronia kala’.
Keep the mind and body active. Stella was an outstanding cook. While going through her albums and books, we discovered many recipes written on pieces of paper. She loved to watch George Calombaris on Master Chef.
Be generous with your gifts. Cooking with love for others – family, friends and the church was yiayia’s way of contributing purposefully.
Staying true to your passions. Nothing gave Stella more pleasure than feeding her loves ones. Cooking with fresh organic ingredients (which she usually grew in her perivoli) was something she remembered from her childhood days on Kythera.
Through good works, inspire others. Throughout her life, Stella embodied the true spirit of community and charity. At the age of 96, saddened by the impact of the Brisbane floods, she prepared trays of pastitstio for the families affected.
Keep the faith and persevere. Faithfulness to her husband although he had passed away 40 years prior (she was a widow longer than she was married). Her morning and evening prayers were an essential part of her day.
Yiayia lived through many social changes, and embraced the new technological innovations available, such as video recording episodes of her beloved ‘Bold and the Beautiful’.
Her life taught me that you don’t need to change the world. Make a difference to the hearts of those around you.
Stella’s recipe for life:
Love your family
Add kindness by the handful
Mix well with your community
Stir with passion
Season daily with your faith in God; and
Bake with love.
'Stamatoula' photo taken at yiayia's 90th birthday. Left to right: Leanne, Melina, Stella and Stephanie.
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