Last night, after he fell asleep curled feline like on the coach following an impromptu dance rendition, I scooped up the little one and cradling his neck in the nook of one elbow, his knees hooked over the other, I carried him softly up the stairs.
It was only as I pulled up the blanket over his bare ticklish toes that I realised I’d lain M into T’s cot-bed.
Most 6ams find the boys and I walking the country lanes on our way to whatever adventure God has in store for us that day. The adventures are not entirely unpredictable led as they are by the location of whichever animal M wishes to see first; what is unpredictable is what we’ll find along the way. There’s a phrase in Turkish, “göz hakkı”, which literally means “eye right”, yet translates too to what noses can smell and ears can hear. If you’re ever wondering why young couples will hand you a sausage chunk as you walk past their lake-side barbeques, well-meaning strangers pass your sugar-free kids chocolate on the bus or why there is an incomprehensibility around gluten-free diets when börek plates are on the table, it likely comes back to your “göz hakkı” and the idea it’s nonsensical not to claim it. So claim it we do, starting our morning scrumping the hedgerows of our neighbourhood. Whilst I push T in the double-buggy M will drop in and out of as his energy ebbs and wanes, we keep our eyes peeled for goodies on the trees. Cherries, lipstick red, cheek puckeringly sour stain the boys lips and t-shirts, marble sized plums, apricot-yellow and honey sweet tempt you to overstep the right of your eye. Mulberries, white and black, hanging plump overhead fall with the slightest of twists to their tail and juicy green plums need no salt to offset the sourness when eaten still warm.
Pulling up a blanket to cover him in spite of the early evenings warm air, happy tears dripping involuntarily, my mind flipped back through chart of M’s life to the day I first laid him in that cot when he outgrew the first he’d rarely slept in. I remember so vividly him eating his very first sour plum in a flat in Istanbul – alhamdulillah how life has changed for us this year.
The first time I came across the göz hakkı concept was on a wide open road on the Turkish Black Sea coast. G and I were driving aimlessly, windows wide open, music complimenting the air, cherry stones raining back onto our heads when thrown out of a not-open sun roof, my hair blowing in the late summers breeze. We drove through fields of sweetcorn, pausing to pick an ear or two, leaving money nestled in amongst the grain, satiating appetites in-between pit stops for fresh anchovies with apples and pears and from-the-tree hazelnuts. It seemed dreamy and far-removed from any life that could be real or sustained.
From the open downstairs windows T’s giggles drifted up. Walking from one side of the room to the other, legs just slightly too far apart for the gait to be solid but close enough that they carried him forward, T was chasing angel friends. As I scooped him up to nurse him his dimples deepened, brand new pearls revealed themselves in the smile that erupted from within. Calendar time is irrelevant for me now. Time passing is noted in a new tooth cutting, the appearance of a pointing finger to signal a want, a new discovery or like interchangeably; time slows when, like today, summer raindrops heavy and individual pull the three of us to the doorstop, a blanket wrapped round us, our naked toes poking out into the coolness. And time speeds up when we’re expecting it least.
When we’re pregnant it feels like a lifetime that we’re planning the life we’ll live with this child. Then the lifetime comes and unless we’re careful, we carry on planning instead of living our plans. Childhood is short; yet never as short as we think. The toddler boy I laid tonight in a crib is by day as much a child as can be with bilingual requests for naked breakfasts and animated storytelling of ants that are spinning in boats, yet by night, when the toddlerness falls deep into dream, there’s little to differ between the toddler and the baby, and that baby now walking is technically a toddler now too. Babyhood ripening.
Mid-mornings after breakfasts with Baba, we take a stroll round the complex we live within. We smell flowers blossoming on doorsteps, follow ants and marvel in the size of their haul, T wriggles his way out of my arms to run barefoot over grass and M picks dandelion clocks to blow over T’s head. M knows whose house to run behind to unearth raspberries from their green hiding places and T’s learnt how to hold onto M’s back as they whizz round tandem style on his trike. We’re surrounded by bounties I took for granted growing up, truly know the value of now.
Summer has arrived. By 9am the strength of the sun leaves a damp trail on my back as we walk the final few yards to home. Days like yesterday, when the sky cools inside a blanket of grey promises of rain, are days I revel in – call it the Brit in me coming out. I leave the curtains closed and open the windows, I pull extra blankets onto piles of cushions and read endless story books. Then, when the rain finally comes, headily tippatippa, bouncing from car roofs and resonating on plastic draining pipes, only then do I draw back the curtains just far enough for M to see the beauty of the miracle because I know any further is pointless – rain is a call to the wild. Yesterday, before I laid my toddler in my baby’s little bed, I ran in puddles with my children, M jumping alongside me illuminating the streets with his delighted giggles and T’s laughter, bewilderment and thrill, resonating against my chest. That the picture on my boots was Betty Boop was an irony recognised only by me. Just the way it should be.
As the last yellow plums yield to our eager hands the fields behind wink. Apples hand heavy on branches still blossoming, bunches of grapes twinkle in the sunlight in their not yet green translucency and figs promise delight to come. fill trees with . Summer will run into autumn and first steps into chasing big brother. Life, if only you trust it, gives you just what you need at what time.