January 18, 2013
One of my all-time favorite movie lines is "I am Spartacus" from the movie Spartacus starring Kirk Douglas. The movie depicts an army of former Roman slaves led by Spartacus in battle with legions of the Roman army. The victorious Roman general stands before the captured surviving members of the slave army and demands that they turn over Spartacus or else all of the former slaves will be executed. Spartacus, not wanting his friends to be executed, stands up and proclaims "I am Spartacus." The loyalty of his friends is so great that one after another they stand forward in succession, shouting "I am Spartacus!" until the shouts dissolve into a cacophony of the multitude of former slaves each insisting, "I am Spartacus!" Bewildered and still not knowing which of them is Spartacus, but impressed by the loyalty he inspires in his army, the Roman general has all of the slaves crucified in a miles-long display alongside the Appian Way leading back to Rome.
Allow me to introduce myself; I am Stavros (Σταυρός), not Spartacus. I retired from the field of public education on July 1, 2012 after 32 years as a high school principal and 5 years as a band/music teacher. I believe an apropos song, "Another Opening, Another Show" from the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, is what I will call this new stage of my life’s journey. I was not ready to actually be put out to pasture, so I eagerly applied for a position as a Page in the MCPL system. As fortune would have it, I survived the rigorous interview process and began my tenure in August. I traded my 12-16 hour day as a principal for 13 hours a week assuring books are placed in the proper order on the appropriate shelves and granting the desires of my two managers, Rachel and Rick. My career goal is to now work diligently and vigorously to change my Page status to a chapter.
My father, Nikolaous, Nikos for short, was born in Selinitsa, Greece, which is now called St. Nicholas. My mother’s parents, Panayotis and Stavroula, came from Sparti. If you ever had the opportunity to watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you would get a fairly accurate picture of how I grew up. The one fallacy in the movie is the superstition that Windex was the cure all for all things. Greeks have numerous superstitions, but that is not one of them.
As a child, I was taught the Greek way of doing things and even had the opportunity to wear the national costume called a foustenella. Worn by warriors, this costume was declared the national costume for men. I wore this costume when I was 7 years old, and my son, Nikos, wore it when he was little. It currently is displayed in my home, as my 35-year-old son and I have outgrown it. The girl in the native costume is my daughter, Katina. She looks pretty good for someone who just celebrated her 15th anniversary of her 18th birthday. It is never polite for the dad to reveal his daughter’s age.
As I bring this installment of this introductory blog to a close, I remind you to "beware of Greeks bearing gifts." It is my belief that getting information in small doses is conducive to better readership. If warranted, I will bring to your attention more of what it was like growing up in America as the eldest son of Greek parents who wanted their children to understand and embrace their heritage. Yiasou!
Platte City Branch