Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 2 comments

On hope and small appliances

I buried a dear friend today.  Okay, perhaps “buried” is a strong word.  “Said a few words on the way to the dumpster” might be more accurate.  

Five years ago, when we moved from Istanbul to where I live now, my roommate Leigh* and I were both in relationships with guys we thought we were going to marry.  It was fun to share that season of our lives, taking turns claiming our bedroom to Skype our long-distance boyfriends and talking late into the night about our exciting futures.  The fact that we had “significant others” was convenient as we moved into our new neighbourhood as single girls.  Whenever a well-meaning Turkish mother started to ask if we might be interested in her son, we could smile sweetly and say, “Sorry, I’m taken.”  And whenever some local casanova made us uncomfortable, my Turkish-speaking boyfriend was only a phone call away.  

When, about a year into our relationship, it became clear to me that this was not the man for me to marry, I took the very painful step of ending things.  This began a season of tears as I nursed a self-inflicted broken heart and grieved the loss of someone I cared for deeply.  Ending a relationship means not only letting go of someone who was dear to you, but also letting go of the dream of the life you thought you were going to live.  With my broken heart came the unwanted realization that I was now single in Turkey, and might be so for a very long time.  

My new status of “bekar” (“single”) changed my life drastically, but it was the subtleties of the change that sometimes hit me the hardest.  I had to get used to feeling somewhat defenseless against would-be-mother-in-laws expounding on the virtues of their sons and feeling vulnerable when taxi drivers would ask if I’d consider marrying a Turk.  And I had to accept the idea that the house I lived in and the community I was a part of - both of which I loved but had always thought of as temporary - were turning out to be a lot more permanent than I’d anticipated.  

In Istanbul, I’d lived with my Turkish family and then housesat for someone else for the remainder of the year, so I hadn’t really purchased anything “permanent” in terms of furniture or household goods.  When we left Istanbul, Leigh and I had moved in with another friend, Charlotte*, who already had a fully furnished house.  Figuring we’d be setting up households of our own in the near future, likely in different cities, we didn’t want to buy anything we’d just have to move cross-country later.  Two beds, two wardrobes and two nightstands for 300 lira at a second hand store and we were good to go.  

Now that I wasn’t going to be moving into a house of my own, shopping for his and hers towels and picking out silverware, I knew I had to start thinking of this place as my home.  But with all the emotion still churning around in my heart, this was a hard reality to swallow.  

Shortly after Leigh’s boyfriend flew in from America to propose to her at a rose petal-strewn table with a view of the sea, Charlotte’s blender broke.  The sweltering heat of our Mediterranean September wasn’t ending any time soon, and besides that, we were about to start a long fast.  Translation:  there was no way we were going to survive very long without a smoothie-making apparatus.  Charlotte suggested that, since I am the passionate cook of the household, maybe I’d like to buy a blender/food processor as a replacement.  Stuffing my heart’s objections of “this was only supposed to be temporary,” I agreed.  

She and I headed to Migros to check out the options available.  There were either your bells-and-whistles blender/juicer/food processor combos for hundreds of lira, or your run-of-the-mill, gonna-break-in-a-month blenders for 20 lira, but nothing in between.  Suddenly this felt like a big commitment, and I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to spend on quality and how long I wanted this gizmo to last.  This was about so much more than a blender to me, and in no time, I burst into tears.

We sat down on a bench in the mall and I let it all out.  So much of my hesitation came from the fact that I didn’t want to “settle into life here” - I wanted to believe that Prince Charming was going to make his appearance any day so I should keep my options open.  As long as I was “temporary” I felt like I was still living in hope.  Doing things like buying small appliances felt permanent.  And more than that, it felt like resignation.  I was starting to panic at the thought of becoming one of those women who has fancy dishes and a cat she talks to, but no husband.  That was NOT the life I’d dreamed of.  I don’t even like cats.

I didn’t want to make an investment in the “transitional single girls’ house” we were living in - I wanted a house of my own.  Hadn’t that been the plan?  Leigh and I were going to be bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, a few months apart.  We’d come back to Turkey, our husbands would be great friends and we’d homeschool our kids together.  Now, instead, she had a ring and I was getting a blender.  It seemed like the cruelest of consolation prizes.  

There on that bench, as hundreds of shoppers streamed by and stared at the foreign girl with the tear-stained face, Charlotte shared some of her own journey as a longer-than-planned single woman that really gave me some good perspective on my own “plight.”  She reminded me that, single or married, I am a woman.  And I’ll have the same “nesting and nurturing” desires as every other woman.  That’s not something that only happens once you’re a wife.  She told me not to deny my femininity and live in a perpetual state of “temporary” just because I was single.  Buying a nice blender, which I would totally use, was not tantamount to giving up my hope of marriage and resigning myself to living in this house forever.  It is possible to live in hope and have a quality of life at the same time.  She is proof of that.  

I went home that day with a 200 lira does-everything-but-make-your-coffee blender/food processor set.  I chose to believe that, instead of this purchase sealing my fate as a terminally single woman, it was an investment in my future.  One day I would marry a man who wanted to live in this 220 volt part of the world, and I wouldn’t even have to register for a blender.  :)

A few months later, Leigh left Turkey to go home and plan her wedding.  (Ironically, a friend and I went in together and got them a blender as their wedding present.)  While I miss having her across the room to talk to whenever something comes to my mind (thank goodness for a good international texting plan!) I do appreciate being able to use her old bed as an extra surface on which to organize all my piles.  My heart has healed more thoroughly than I never thought possible, and I’ve come to see this house as my home instead of as a prison of hopelessness.  Every year I’ve grown more attached to my roommate Charlotte and all my crazy neighbours.  And I’ve since acquired two bookshelves, a desk, a rug, a scooter, a deep freeze, a coffee grinder, a cheesecake pan, multiple spatulas and enough mugs to open a cafe.  

I quickly got over my resentment of what my blender represented and it became one of my favourite tools in the kitchen.  In the past four years, that thing has whipped up hundreds of exotic smoothies, countless batches of soup (from lentil to broccoli cheese to curried pumpkin) and heaps of hummus, eggplant spread and my famous sun-dried tomato dip.  

Somewhere along the way, I learned (courtesy of a few cracks) that you shouldn’t mix hot soup in a plastic blender, so I started to use the hand mixer attachment instead.  Last year, glass blenders were on sale at Real for Mother’s Day, and I bought one because it could handle soup.  It was an ordeal to get that big clunky thing in and out of the cupboard all the time, though, so we kept using the main part of my original blender for smoothies and just got used to the fact that it leaked a little.  This year, just weeks after the warranty expired, Blender #2 quit working and I haven’t made the time to take it to someone to see if they can fix the motor.  We were getting by fine with the old one and the hand mixer, so there was no rush.

Until today.

This afternoon, I was roasting pumpkin to make pumpkin curry, and I wanted a little pick-me-up to tide me over until dinner.  I’d recently seen a recipe for a banana-spinach milkshake that sounded yummy, so I pulled some frozen bananas and spinach out of the freezer, poured in the milk and vanilla, and added a couple of ice cubes to give it some crunch.  No sooner had I hit the “turbo” button than there were globs of not-yet-milkshake flying everywhere.  I stopped the blender and checked to see if I hadn’t had the lid on tight enough.  

And then I saw it.  One of the ice cubes must have hit an already weakened crack at just the right angle, and now there was a two inch hole blown out the side of the blender.  Hearing my, “Nooooooo!!!!!!”, Charlotte came down the stairs and found me staring at the mess of banana and spinach now coating the microwave, the kettle, the coffee grinder and the curtains.  When I told her what kind of milkshake it had been, she laughed and told me this was my just punishment for wanting to drink such a vile concoction.   

So, my beloved blender has truly mixed its last.  The wand still works, so I can use it for the onion chopper and the hand mixer attachments.  But I guess I’d better start trying to figure out where one goes to get their glass blender fixed.  After all, soup season is upon us and I’ve got all kinds of new recipes I’m itching to try out.

After I’d cleaned up the mess and thrown the broken blender in the garbage, Charlotte asked if I wanted her to take it to the dumpster so I wouldn’t have to do the deed.  But, as one who thrives on ceremony and closure, I wanted to be the one to do it.  

As I walked down our dirt road to the garbage can, decked out in my şalvar pants like a true village girl, I thought about how much I love my life here.  I’ve got half-a-dozen “aunties” who all keep track of my comings and goings, any of whose doorsteps I could show up on at dinner time, say, “I’m hungry” and be welcomed at the table.  I’ve got a greens guy at the Thursday veggie pazar who knows what I want each week and starts to fill a bag when he sees me coming.  When I call to order water, I don’t even have to give my address because the girl knows my voice.  I’ve got treasured friends I’ve laughed with and wept with who treat me as a member of their own families.

I certainly thought that by thirty-two I’d have a new name on my passport and be on my third or fourth kid.  I’ve gotten better at handling the marriage proposals from mothers on buses and guys at the pazar, but that’s not to say my heart doesn’t twinge every time some well-meaning lady asks me, “Don’t you think about getting married?”  (“Yes, teyze, every day - thanks for the reminder.”)  Still, on the day I bought that blender and every day since, I have planted myself here and invested my life in this place and these people, and I have no regrets.  

My singleness has now outlasted two blenders.  (Four, if you count the ones I had when I lived in the States.)  I have an ever-growing collection of doilies and towels that neighbours have given me for my çeyiz (dowry) that are sitting in my closet, just waiting for a home.   Nearly every night in the summer I hear wedding fireworks exploding somewhere nearby and race to the window to catch a glimpse, all the while longing for the day when those will be my fireworks in the sky.

The ache for marriage and family has only increased with time.  But, honestly, despite the fact that it's had its share of dips and blows, my hope of its fulfillment has increased as well.  This house IS only temporary, and one day (soon?) I’ll have a kitchen of my own and a husband and kids to cook for.  (But, as Charlotte often reminds me, she’ll “give me away” only on the condition that we don’t move further than the next block!)

Tonight I “laid to rest” something that, to me, represented redemption and healing.  It was a stake in the ground that allowed me to say, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,” even when this isn’t how I would’ve written the story myself.  It was a symbol of the ability to trust in the goodness of the heart of my Father, even when the evidence in front of me would suggest I do otherwise.  Every time I made a smoothie, it challenged me to live wholeheartedly today, while continuing to believe for the impossible for my future.

So, farewell, dear blender.  Allah rahmet eylesin.  (“May you rest in peace.”)  And here’s to hoping that this next blender be the one that accompanies those cheesy towels and doilies into my next home!  


Thank you for this. You have such a beautiful heart. Thank you for sharing it with me. Love you, Sister!

Beautiful words from a beautiful heart - Keep the hope!