My grandparents were born in the middle ages. My grandmother was the daughter of an opium trader in Asia Minor and my grandfather was the son of a greek orthodox priest in a tiny village in Chalkidiki — now a walhalla for tourists, back then a malaria invested region. To give you an idea of that time: my grandma was sent to an orphanage so she could go to school, which was considered to be a much better situation than the refugee camp they were in after they were forced to leave their home. After his mother died a few weeks after giving birth to my grandpa, the village appointed a young girl to raise him. These, and many other stories I was told as a kid, sound medieval to me. But they happened less than a hundred years ago.
As a child I used to spend the summer holidays in Greece with my family. By now, the middle ages were over, but some of the nicer habits still remained, like getting together and listening to stories. Every now and then, my grandfather used to tell a story about a war, I don’t remember which one exactly. It was a long story about being a soldier close to the border of Albania, about different religions, about tolerance and respect for prisoners of war and about celebrating Christmas as Greek soldiers together with their Albanian, Muslim prisoners. It was a wonderfully friendly history, considering the undoubtedly extremely harsh conditions. The part that always made the biggest impression on me was the end of the story. One day, just like that, the war was over and the soldiers were told to go home. They were not brought home, they were just abandoned. So there he was, in the wilderness of the Epirus region, hundreds of kilometers from home. With no money. There were no buses, no trains, no planes. Just dirt roads.
How did you get home? I used to ask. He just walked. And people would give him something to eat every now and then. And after a few months he was home.
I heard this story many times. Every time it was the same story. Maybe there were some different details, or some new references to the news of that day, but the story remained the same. And by repeating it, we remembered it, and by remembering it I am able to write some of it down. Some good stories are worth repeating. I never got bored to listening to the friendly voice of my grandfather talking about his adventures.
The only thing I used to hate — as a young, anti-religious punk rocker — was the end of all the stories my grandparents used to tell. There was always some religious moral to every story. Every incredible adventure was destroyed by adding some unrelated gibberish to the end. And today I realise that I turned out to be just like my grandparents; I’m about to do the same thing.
Next week I will publish a story in Smashing Magazine about progressive enhancement — wait, what?! Where did that come from, that’s completely unrelated! It’s not a new story, on the contrary. It’s a story that’s been told many, many times before, but it’s also a story that not everybody understands, or a story that people tend to forget. So it’s a story that’s worth repeating. And, as with all complex stories, it’s a good thing to hear it from different people. I’m really sorry about spoiling this post about the world my grandparents grew up in with my progressive enhancement zealotry.