One of the best pieces of advice ever gifted to me about parenting was this:
Whatever you wish to change in a child, take time to change it first in yourself.
So simple. So clear. So blindingly obvious. Yet so very easy to forget often enough to do.
My darling boys,
The weather is gradually changing the colours of our morning walks, autumns chill casting bright shadows on the leaves that we walk under, on the ones our feet crunch. Baby T, you’re oblivious; at three milestone months old your curious alertness at home deserts you nestled against me in a sling as the rhythm of my movements lulls you deep into sleep; but M, sweetest Babyone, you’re aware enough for the two of you and it’s a daily pleasure and a privilege to watch you push yourself further afield. Where once you’d stay close to my legs, exploring the woods from a safe pre-worn trail, you now run ahead independent and focused on discovering what’s seen and what’s not, intent on uncovering the world new again. Watching your delight in the texture of dew-damp bark, the scent of freshly picked flowers or the colour of mud on our hands sends a lightness to my step, much-needed from day-to-day.
Having guests in our home brings not only the joy that comes with sharing our children with those who love them, but also a period of necessary self-reflection once they’re gone and the doors closed again. Conversations with those we love bring not only the truest of answers but the realest of insights into self – whether you share those revelations or not. This latest round of visitors, parents in all senses of the noun, brought needed clarity to my thoughts and opened questions on diversified paths.
Littlest ones, while you both slept today, I was free to sit a while. We were in Ortaköy, the tiny fishing village which bred your Baba and his Baba too, where Dede ran barefoot without shoes or a care, where your Amcas taught a five-year-old Baba to swim. In the smooth waters which framed my resting spot, your Baba learnt many a lesson and dreamt even more of a dream.
I sat untimed save to you, watching boats pass us by on the Bosphorus, witnessing two continents dance under the same midday-and-some sun and fish come up to dance as the birds swooped down in synchronicity. Sitting still I remembered your Baba’s stories of his childhood here, of how his Mum would lick his belly for that tell-tale salt linger which would give away afternoons swimming unattended in the sea when far too small, of how the fisherman – perhaps still those casting away lines around us today as I sat there with you – would babysit them unofficially, chastise them and send home for tea. In the make-shift prayer room outside the renovation of a most beautiful mosque I lay you down, T, as M slept outside and remembered the tears of joy which fell the first time I prayed in the mosque now being restored, tears triggered by that same sea shown from through a glass promenade which reveals too the playground of my husband as a boy turning into a man. To this stretch of water, these forever bobbing boats and fragile walls of prayer your Baba holds an affinity the which I’ve never known or am likely to feel to anywhere. In this city, between these shores, my husband fell in love with the world and made his world the very world wherein he would love me, too. That world is so special, so magic and real part of me wants you two to know that too. Is it fair to even ask him to leave that behind?
When I first arrived in Istanbul, I sat on a terrace of a cafe overlooking the same view I looked out at today, a cafe which coincidentally would be one where G and I met for coffee every night for many wonderful months while falling in love. A few weeks ago whilst M helped tidy up the chaos we still call a home, I came across a diary I was writing back then.
In it was this passage written from this cafe in this faraway land. I hope, despite the conflicts and the dreams and the inevitable cracks, you one day know the woman who penned down her thoughts in this way, and see this city through the eyes of our dreams.
It’s neither east nor west, not an era past nor one fitting with the now. I sit, pricking the bubble of modernity which beholds, sipping a perfect coffee crisp on a mahogany decked terrace failing to connect the colours dancing before my wondered eyes. To my right, three decadently dressed women indulging in cappuccino so delicately smooth their conversations pause to measure each sip; to my left two men master the art of putting the world to rights. Their demeanour tells me they’re old friends – the younger suit clad and newly chic, the elder in jeans which have seen many days; they order for other. My foresight vision homes in on a couple new in their dance, smiles so large my eyes can’t escape their faces, intensified with eye contact so intimately questioning my observance is an intrusion I silently ask forgiveness for making. And beneath, the world I now inhabit. Boats bob inelegantly in a vain attempt to catch a lull enough for lines to be dropped, street vendors huskily, frantically, declaring their wares from stools placed haphazardly around makeshift stalls of permissable space; hands warmed with rosebud glasses of sweetened over-brewed tea as round feet cats scurry between pier and person, asking for food their full bellies don’t need. As flat-capped Grandads stand shoulder to shoulder with leather clad youths, all of them sending silent, and not so, prayers that the fish will choose their rods, young couples use the milder weather to innocently snuggle on benches romanticized by the setting and headscarved mothers chastise their offspring who’d avoided their gaze long enough to dive delightedly off the makeshift pier, and through it all walks a bemused tourist beguiled by touts from the seafronts restaurant mile. It’s autumn on the Bosphorus, here.