Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014 - No comments

August According to My Left Hand

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’m submitting this one for my thousand-word essay on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

This hand says it all.   

The orange circle arrived on my palm at my “little sister’s” henna party (the Turkish equivalent of a bachelorette party) two weeks ago on a sweltering Istanbul night in rented restaurant thick with high heels and hairspray.  A gaggle of glittering females, candles in hand, we danced in circles around the bride, singing the traditional song intended to make her cry as she left her family for her new life in her husband’s home.  Fortunately for this bride, though, she was crazy in love with her fiance and, when our mournful song held no sway against her happy laughter, we abandoned our efforts and celebrated along with her as her hands were hennaed, marking her for marital bliss.

The slightly faded orange spot was restored to its rich hue a week later whilst crammed into a small living room in an eastern Turkish village with twenty-plus women the night before another friend’s wedding.  Headscarves and inhibitions were discarded at the door, pinkies linked and pajama clad hips weaving to the tune of folk songs and laughter.  A coin was pressed into the hennaed hand of the bride-to-be for good luck, and then the dyeing of dozens of fingers and palms began.  Marriage advice and blush-tinted giggles flowed back and forth between older and younger into the wee hours as the bride spent her last night in her family home.

The bandaid on my middle finger came as a result of the combination of those two weddings.  Both henna parties and weddings involve a whole lot of dancing, and Turkish dancing (at least the kind I can manage) involves a whole lot of snapping.  Excessive snapping can lead to blisters.  Enough said.

The purple juice streaming down my hand marks one of the sweetest memories of the past month.  The night after the second wedding, the mother and father of the bride (our dearest neighbours who moved back to their very-far-away hometown a few months ago) took us to see their pride and joy - the orchard and vineyard that have been in her family for generations.  For as long as we’ve been friends, we’ve enjoyed the fruits of their labour there.  They’ve brought us buckets of grapes when they return at the end of each summer, sent us cherries via cross-country bus (a rather handy form of “mail” we have here) and shared their precious dried mulberries, peaches, walnuts and fruit leather over many a winter cup of tea.  This time, true to form, they sent us off with a crate full of cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, grapes, and a watermelon that bravely survived the cross-country car trip home.  To see their eyes shine as they led us down the dirt path between the fruit trees, pointing out “the pumpkin that’s going to weigh twenty pounds”, “the one walnut that survived the frost” and the couch under the shade tree where they always take their tea breaks made me feel like I’d finally connected with a part of their hearts I’d only heard about in stories.    And, as you can see, I liked the blackberry patch most of all.  :)

Last but not least, the funky brown spots on my middle and ring fingers.  Well, in between all these wedding weekends, I was up in the cool, rainy wonderfulness of the Black Sea mountains attempting some semblance of a writing retreat.  The place we were staying was rather camping-esque, involving a whole lot of handwashed clothes, outdoor meals and bucket showers.   The scent of mosquito repellent took me straight back to the days of not wanting my mom to wash my campfire-smoky clothes after a week at camp for fear that the memories would fade with the smell.  Those blotches are the later stages of a most unfortunate burn-turned-blister that occurred as a result of introducing a British friend and one of our Turkish hosts to the delicious gooeyness of S’mores.  Life lesson learned:  never try to rescue a fresh-from-the-fire marshmallow as it’s falling from your stick.  

So, there you have it:  August according to my left hand.