Today the boys packed all of their clothes for the ‘trip’ they were taking to Chester and a few days ago, driving through Iznik, we asked what they wanted to plan for the day; “Grandma’s house, then a train ride to Liverpool and a trip to the dinosaur museum.” How beautiful the shelter of childhood is from the realities of distance, visas and time! They exist in the now, with tomorrow and yesterday being concepts that seem to blend together.. their memories clear yet crystallised, blended moments they recall with pleasure, with excitement, sometimes hesitation yet lacking the cacophony of regret. It’s either cruel, bitter irony or a sign we’ve come full circle that as Facebook reminds me a year ago we were packing, the Turkish government approves my new residents permit because longing for what you’ve never had is one thing, pining for what you’ve lost is another.
The last four years have been ones of perpetual motion, a reluctance to settle with a door left wide open. Even though we made the move to the UK well aware it could end abruptly, I never really planned for this, never truly wanted to think we’d be back here in Iznik and for that I’m thankful, because if I had, I’m not sure I’d have had the strength to go. And I’m glad we did if only to know that door once taunting me is, for a time, closed. Like most good things, having kept the house here fully functioning is a once both a blessing and curse, both a step backwards and beginning again. For starters, I have no idea what we own or where it is. Last year I’d fruitlessly search cupboards in Chester for the honey twizzler cradled in the kitchen in Iznik, and now, despite seeing clearly in my mind the box containing all party supplies, I fail to connect the dots to the boxes being stored in relatives’ garages and the distance that is from here, so birthday cakes end up dwarfed under cinnamon scented pillar candles – at least finally a use for those things! The boys have half sets of gloves though I know exactly which jacket pocked the other is tucked into, my outfits miss the boots that just complete it because I’ve no idea which badly stuffed container they’re sitting in, waiting for me to made the journey in reverse – with empty suitcases to bring our stuff home. Home.
In a funny way though my heart yearns to be close to my family and my tastebuds scream for variety, despite the lack of car and the rental house and the uncertainty about the legalities of our education choices for the boys and regardless of the fact that our options for daily activities are numbered in single digits, somehow, being back here feels right. It was here that M cut his last baby tooth, and it’s here that now his first wobbly tooth has appeared. It was here T learnt to walk, and it’s here he’s starting – rather late in the game – to understand the notion of balance and his abilities with it. It was here, not Istanbul, that we learnt to work as a parenting team and it’s fitting thats it’s here we solidify that as we step tentatively into schooling our boys. For all it’s not Chester, and for all it lacks of Istanbul, if there’s one plus side to a sleepy Turkish town, what you see is what you get, and what you get is whatever you make of what’s given. Once we remembered to forget, for the most part, the choices our Chester life had given, we relearnt to embrace what we have: the emptiness of the local park allows us to make it our own, knowing with certainty that half built dens or squirrelled-away sticks will still be there when we return tomorrow; the seasonality of produce means we look forward to each and every item, and that craft stuff used once a week in the UK? The paint peeling walls are well camouflaged around here.
It’s the ability to take time apart thats the hardest to forget because it’s with the space to breathe you notice what takes your breathe away: the joyful reunion between brothers after picking M up from nursery, the leap they’d make into my arms after a day at Grandmas’, the reassurance G & I felt sniffing their sleeping heads after a tapas munching date night; those moments of touching base as enjoyable as the time apart. I miss G & I having one-on-one time with both of the boys, and the oh so frequent occasions we’d be apart whilst together when we’d all congregate at Mum’s, brothers and sisters and partners, doting aunties and uncles to our next generation – How I yearn for that chaos! But I wouldn’t swap for a minute having our little tribe of four all together permanently.
Blessings are often counted in retrospect and thats not how I want us to live. I want to wake each morning knowing how lucky we are G doesn’t need to leave for the office and the boys don’t have to go to daycare and we don’t have to get out of pyjamas, and I want us to look fondly back on a few adventurous months with the eyes of a child. After all, it’s just a tenant of faith, trusting that nothing in this world should be perfect.
“And what is the life of this world but goods and chattels of deception?”