"All human errors are impatience, a premature breaking off, of methodical procedure, an apparent fencing-in of what is apparently at issue."
I often wonder whether my life might have been very different if I had allowed candies melt in my mouth until they disappeared, leaving behind a sweet taste – the only proof of their brief existence. Instead, I champed and devoured them to experience the colourful flavour bursts and textures on my tongue, in favour of the promised slow pleasures.
According to Annecim, this was the tell-tale sign of impetuosity and hastiness. And to her, patience was the greatest virtue in life. She believed that patience made us better people and taught us forbearance and self control. That is how she explained the purpose of fasting during Ramazan – as a means of learning to control and moderate our impulses and passions, rather than by forgoing drinking or eating from sunrise to sunset on the longest day of summer. Therefore, neither my sisters nor I was allowed to fast until we were old enough to understand the principle of fasting.
It must have been her self-restraint which helped her endure the four year sentence with a mother-in-law whom she hated with every fibre in her body and soul, before she was freed of her physical presence. It must have been that same virtue which kept her soldiering on through Babacim's financially lean times in Switzerland, living on his research honorarium, not letting my sisters and me on to the reality that we were temporarily quite poor. Just as it is that very same virtuous patience that keeps her looking forward to the day when she'll join her beloved soul-mate, as her body will be delivered into the ground, to rest beside his.
But I don't see this last as a virtue anymore. It has become the obsession of a mind that has been continually cleared and rearranged by an invisible hand, which, at the same, time rewrites herstory. Some of her newly minted vignettes tell me of a life she willed away since the loss of her beloved life partner and fulfils only in her dreams. I no longer try to set the record straight. She looks happier this way; a babyish innocence, a mellowness flicker on her once beautiful yet serious face.
Annecim was not only determined, but also talented; and she wanted me to be determined like her and not give up on what I started.
She knitted, crocheted, sewed, baked, designed clothes, and painted in water colours. She tried teaching my sisters and me all of her skills during our summer vacations from school. We all turned out fine, but my sisters are far better than I am at many of these skills. I used to start something with zeal, and after a while, my impatient nature would get bored and want to move on to something else, before my piece was completed. The life of the next endeavour, depending on its novelty, often followed suit leaving in its wake half finished skirts, drawings, incompleted needlepoint canvasses, or anything else, as I flitted from project to project, like a butterfly in a field of flowers.
I had a “monkey appetite”, Annecim always said.
“Everything is difficult before it is easy, don't be maymun ishtahli.”
Whether she said that to mock me, or to spur me on to staying with my project, I never knew nor asked, even though I did not know what a monkey appetite was. All I remember is picturing in my mind a cute monkey peeling a banana, biting off a chunk, throwing the rest away and jumping off to a new tree branch to taste another fruit.
After my parents became empty nesters at a fairly young age, Annecim found herself at a loss. Those tumultuous years of her longing for her daughters caused her to feel very lonely and seek genuine friendships by returning to Turkey with Babacim in 1975. I was sad, but also happy for her, wondering if that was not her act of rebellion in answer to that of ours.
Time reveals that some rebellions have a purgative effect.
In spite of deeply rooted friendships she made, embracing the country she so regretted leaving merely a decade ago, and in spite of all her broken dreams, Annecim talked her soul-mate into returning to where they had left their daughters behind. By then we were scattered to Delaware, Ontario, and Québec. Montréal had been a city of heartbreak for Annecim, so she selected the capital to resettle. Her congenial nature gained her many friends both within and outside of our culture in a short time. In Ottawa she started painting with water colours. She took up art classes at Carlton University where Babacim taught part time, and kept herself occupied. I look back at that as the brightest hour of her life in Canada. I loved searching for special gifts in classy art stores in St Lambert Village to take to her on my visits with my daughter and son. I remember her explanations of her inspiration, the subjects in her paintings, her using a blow dryer for drying the water colours before applying another shade. The priceless look of Babacim's pride and happiness – his smile at listening to her. . .
Then one day, she stopped painting.
She offered no explanation other than that she found painting too tedious with all the different sized brushes, blending colours, waiting for them to dry, and the paper that piled up. Perhaps crocheting would be better, since the materials were togetherly kept, she voiced. We encouraged her to continue. So much. But she never returned to her art. And she did not crochet like she did before either. She knitted a vest or two a few years ago. She doesn't do any thing any more, except spend most of her days in bed, awaiting her journey at the end of which, she says, Babacim is calling her name.
Some of her paintings are framed and they hang in my sisters' homes. She never took herself seriously as an artist and did not keep many of her works. Few are dated or signed. When I showed her these photographs of her creations she looked at them for a while and said, “They are so nice. Very nice. Did you make them?” She didn't believe me when I told her that she was the artist, until I enlarged her signature. Then that detached look came over her face - the look which hints that her thoughts are starting to take flight into paths I cannot fathom.
Later that evening when I tucked her in and kissed her good night, she asked if tomorrow I would make a copy of the photograph with the vase of flowers to keep on her night table.
Füsun Atalay ~ Copyright © Will of my Own - 2012