Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015 - 3 comments

A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

For years we’d heard about it:  the hometown where they loved to spend their summers   (“All the fruit you could ever eat...And that water.....”) but were so glad to return from in the fall.  Then last spring, they moved back there for good.  Elderly parents to take care of, a vineyard to tend to.  And so it became that our best Turkish friends are two flights, a hundred years and several layers of headscarf away. 
Two weeks ago, we made our fourth trip out to their village since they moved.  First it was their daughter’s wedding, then a proper catch-up visit.  Then a third, tearful trip a week later when the man who was so much like a father to me succumbed to the damage done by the brain aneurism he’d had during our autumn picnic in their orchard on the third day of our previous visit.  

This fourth one was both hard and sweet.  Same furniture, different house, same old comfortable friendship.  A lot of laughter and “remember when” punctuated by a lot of tears.  A happy reunion with a sad family that has a long way to go before the words “father” and “husband” aren’t followed by a sharp intake of breath and a pack of Kleenex.  Last summer’s wedding is now this year’s baby, and the piles of relatives we once struggled to keep straight (okay, we still do...) are now becoming familiar friends.  

It’s a season of adjustments.  Their old home that’s become their new home.  New family members added, by vow or by labour.  Beloved family members lost by death or divorce.  And plunked into the middle of it, two foreign women who have somehow earned the honoured place of “insiders.”

The day we spent up at their orchard was one I both looked forward to and dreaded - a big family picnic under that same apple tree, food cooked over that same fire, tea drunk out of those same glasses while sitting on those same tree stumps.  And yet it was also a chance to clear stones from the furrows and sticks from the veggie patch, to marvel at the blossoms that had appeared on trees that we last saw bone bare, to throw our own handfuls of dirt onto the foundation of the little house for which he showed us the plans just minutes before he collapsed.

A chance to hope for beauty from ashes.



Here’s our weekend in soundbites:

“Smell these lemons!  Smells just like home.  I don’t miss it there, not really....but I do miss the lemons from your garden....”

“He always said he had a third daughter, you.  And just before that weekend, I said, “Dad, why do you look so happy?”  And he said, “Cuz they’re coming to visit.”  

“But then it snowed on Thursday and all the trees got cold.  Another week and we’ll know if they froze or not.”


“Motherhood looks good on her, doesn’t it?”

“Go pick some parsley for our salad - the big leaves.  It’s the patch up there beside the green onions.  You remember - you picked it last time...”

“It was that spot by the fire where my dad died, wasn’t it?  Can you tell me again everything about that day....”

“Hacı Baba’s tea is always good.  He mixes the Turkish stuff with the illegal stuff.”

“I used to climb that walnut tree when I was little.  Here, you wanna come up with me?”

“What a pair we are!  Two sisters - one can’t hear and one can’t talk!”

“My dad used to collect these little bits of sap - he called them “ınç.”  And he’d stick them all onto the back of his hand, like this, and then he’d bring them to us and let us eat them.”

“Dan dini dan dini, little baby cow.  Her mom’s a monkey, her dad’s a flea.  Ey, ey, ey baby.....”

“They told us in school that they’re checking people’s teeth before they can apply for police school.  They won’t take you if you have bad teeth.  Or if you have weird marks on your face.”

“The water here isn’t like the water anywhere else.  Do you want to stop and drink some?”

“I think I miss the pazar the most.  And you guys, and my other neighbours, of course.  But if I could just go to the pazar - not even to buy anything, just to see all those greens lines up in a row.  We don’t have pazars like that here.  Everyone has their own garden, you know?  But I miss seeing it all in one place.”  

“You have a cold?  You should drink this soup.  Nettle and herbs and greens.  I know all about healing soups...”

“The usta is up there right now making the rock wall for the base of the house.  Then we’ll go up and flatten out the dirt and let it rest.  My dad had the dirt brought in right before he....  And, well, we haven’t done anything with the house yet until now.”


“I still haven’t gotten used to this place.  After living where we used to live, it feels like someplace other than Turkey to me now.” 

“Wrap that baby up!  She’ll freeze out here!”

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?  My father-in-law made it when he was in jail.  He made that wooden mosque there, too.  And my husband made these beaded roses when he was in......”

“Tea’s almost ready.  And I made egg salad because I know it’s your favourite.”

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it to your house.  We only have a few days, and a month wouldn’t be enough to see your whole clan!”

“See how the blossom just crumbles in my hand.  Such a shame.  No plums again this year...”

“The people who own the vineyard next to ours won’t let us put a window on the side facing them.  They’re afraid someone they don’t know might watch them from inside.”

“Mom, you used to string up a swing like that and rock me in it when I was a baby, didn’t you?”


“I haven’t been able to go to his grave yet.  I’m not ready.  I had to come to the vineyard.  I have no choice - there’s so much work to do and the trees won’t wait.  But not the grave, not yet.”

“We were lucky with her.  She’s the best bride we could’ve asked for.  Always smiling, never doing anything to cause problems....”

“Oh, but you know your Book’s been changed, right?”

“I don’t know what happened to the börek.  It all stuck to the bottom of the pan.  She came last night and she made it and put it in the fridge....is that why?  Did the eggs all sink to the bottom?  Now I can’t get it out.  It was going to be such good börek...”

“I think I understood about five percent of what I heard today.  These accents....  How come no one ever conjugates a verb around here??”

“That’s because she’s a police wife.  Gets everything for free - even her phone plan!  Not a regular civilian like us...”

“He says he always gets up from the table before he’s full.  If you eat until you’re full, the devil roams freely in your veins.”

“You’re just like Grandma.  She never remembers her tea during breakfast cuz she’s too busy with the cheese.  And then she gets mad that it’s cold.  Hand it to me, I’ll freshen it.”


“And they built all those houses, all the same.  A few hundred of them.  But no one’s buying them.  There are only seven thousand people in this town - do they think that many people are going to move out here?  Maybe if they built a factory or something where there would be jobs.  Plus, who’s going to buy a house with no radiators?  You’d freeze in the winter.”

“She’s not a guest in this house, she’s family.  Let her fill your teacup.”

“My aunt’s house you’ve been to.  Just a few apartments down from us.  My sister’s is in the building just below that.  And in that building, my brother that died - his wife and daughter live there....”

“Remember when we came here last summer, the day after the wedding?  And you took a picture of the one lonely walnut up in that tree.  I hope there’s more than one this year....”

“I had an errand at town hall today, but you heard that funeral announcement, right?  The mayor’s dad.  He was the mayor before and now it’s his son.  So now I can’t go for a week, at least.  Maybe ten days.  To pay my respects, of course, but not for business.  It would be rude.”

“Don’t worry about the littlest rocks.  Just get the big ones.  When that bucket’s full, we’ll go dump it onto the dirt where they’re working on the foundation for the house.”

“I’m worried about him.  He hardly talks anymore and won’t open up to any of us.  He’s doing okay in school now, thank goodness.  But he watches Kurtlar Vadisi and I think it’s made him hard.....”


“I’ve been stuck inside with her since she was born.  It’s finally getting warm now and I am so ready to get out of the house and walk down to the sea...”

“This village is suffocating.  The nature here is pretty, but the community, it’ll drown you.”

“Those egg stains never did come out of the carpets.  Who throws eggs at the groom anyway?”

“Poor Teyze, bless her heart.  She’s facing the wrong way.  Mecca’s over that way.”

“He’s a good father otherwise.  Brings home money.  Takes us out on the weekend.  It’s when he drinks that we’re so afraid of him...”

“And all you have to do is take the lace and sew it onto the two ends of your towel.  Not many people can do it like I do it so I sell a lot of them.”

“Do you leave your car in Turkey when you go back to America or do you take it with you?”

“Keep an eye on the chicken so that cat doesn’t run off with our lunch like last time!”


“You can’t buy alcohol here in our village.  At all.  People go down across the highway to the Alevi village to buy it.  And you can’t play Backgammon or Okey here, either.  You used to be able to, in our grandfathers’ time.  And then some guys got in a fight.  Now, no games.”

“Oh, don’t go to bed yet.  Let’s have some Turkish coffee!  Your time here is so short...”

“I miss my dad so much.  On days like this, I catch myself thinking he’s just off buying chicken for the barbecue and he’ll come up and join the picnic in a little bit...”

“You should come back in cherry season.  And in October  - the first weeks of October - for the grape harvest.  Our grapes here are famous.  You’ve never tasted grapes like these....”


3 comments:

A very interest story, Jamie, and beautiful photos!

so beautifully written.....thanks for sharing your turkish family with us :)

loved those various comments. it really captures a lot of the culture