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Jim Karas on rediscovering his Greek roots

Jim Karas

Jim Karas

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Updated: February 5, 2014 5:52PM

Clearly, with the last name Karas, I’m Greek. But until recently, my connection to Greek culture predominately came from my love of Greek salad with grilled chicken at S & G — and my love of bantering with the Greek family who owns it. Aside from that, I seemed to have lost the connection to a community that was once very important to me: no church, no dancing and barely a Greek friend. But all of that changed over the past year.

In 2012, I go to a party and meet a very fun new friend, Jack Andrews, who says to me, “You know Jim, I’m Greek.” Jack introduces me to Sue Leonis, who says, “You know, Jim, not only did I grow up in Glenview (HUGE Greek population, FYI) like you, but I’m Greek.” At the same party is a new-ish client named Patty Weiss, who says to me — again — “You know, Jim, I’m Greek.” I begin to wonder: Have I, at 52, suddenly become a “Greek magnet”?

Soon afterward, I bump into John Tatoules, an obvious Greek. I grew up with his sister in GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth Association — I know!) at our church, and we spend the night laughing, with Jack, about our Greek mothers, the traditions and the phrases (for example, showing up “xera ta headia” means showing up to a party at someone’s home “with nothing in your hands”). The horror of it all!

So I’ve surrendered. Someone or something in the universe is telling me to spend time with the “peeps from my past,” and I’m truly enjoying it. My Greek is better. I’ve not only landed Greek friends, but Greek clients, too. I’m sharing more Greek traditions with my kids. Funny how life often comes “full circle.” I grew up with Greeks, then had no connection to the Greek culture at all, and now, like they say in the horror film, “Poltergeist,” “They’re baaack.”

Now that I once again feel like a part of the Greek community, I realize how much I missed my roots. So I ask you: Have you let a part of your past drift away? Someone (a good friend you had a silly argument with over a guy not interested in either of you), something (the feeling of calm you got from regular yoga) or some place (I went to The Dells as a child, then I complained all the way there with my kids — but ended up loving it)? Then you need to make a list. Reach out to an old friend on Facebook. Google a yoga class close to your home or work, or go to church, maybe for the first time in year. By reaching back to your past, you may find a true joy in going forward.

As for me? I will be at Greek Islands surrounded by my people, gobbling up flaming cheese (saganaki), strumming my bouzouki (Greek guitar), while sipping Metaxa. Oh, and I’ll be eating feta with every meal, just as a reminder …

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