They got married, then engaged, and then had a wedding – schedule flexibility was required to accommodate the bride’s family coming from the United States.
When The Girl left for Turkey back in 2011, none of us really knew what to expect – other than that she was embarking on a tremendous, brave and life changing personal adventure. She built a network, found her tribe. She grew professionally. She found love… and a partner… and now a husband.
Studley accompanied me, and my ex-husband EJ was joined by his wife, Fahima and her daughter Alexandra. We traveled and worked as a cohesive team, supporting the couple, and sharing expenses along the way. If you had asked me after the divorce if this would be possible, i’d have put it in the realm of “plausible, but unlikely”. But it worked…
i’d met Metin, my daughter’s fiancé, several times – and have shared many silly moments with him on Skype. We didn’t meet his family until we arrived for the marriage, performed at their home by the Imam. Still a bit jet-lagged, I managed to hoark up a few words in Turkish*“Oğlunuz çok iyi bir adam!” (Your son is a very good man!) and “Çok memnun oldum!” (Nice to meet you!)
His parents were warm and welcoming, and as soon as the Imam arrived, the service began. It was fast, and in Arabic, and just like that, they were married. Happy tears and smiles… and then it was time forthe engagement party.
The engagement – Henna Night (Kına Gecesi) – is traditionally hosted by the bride’s family. Under the circumstances, Metin’s family stepped up and handled all arrangements! A glorious meal, served to the families and a few friends on their terrace as the sun set. My daughter had placed several of her bilingual friends strategically around the table to serve as translators.
Metin’s mother, Haava, sat across from me – and most of our communication took place via smiles and pantomime. She is all of four feet tall and spends a lot of her time hugging and kissing everyone within reach! She assured me that The Girl would be loved and cared for as their own daughter. i thanked her for loving my daughter as her own.
When the engagement ceremony started, i got a bit of a surprise. As dictated by tradition, the groom’s father asked my ex-husband if he consented to give his daughter to their family. Feeling the hairs on my neck stand up, i smiled and shot a glance at my daughter. She smiled and shrugged and whispered “whatever…” and the celebration rolled onward as her father said “Evet!” (Yes!)
The women disappeared to the other side of the terrace, lighting candles and sparklers, and The Girl was given a black lace robe and a red veil. She and Metin were seated in the center of the terrace. Music started, and the girls danced in a circle, singing along… The words passed down through centuries.
These are songs signifying the bride leaving her family for a new family. Ages old, going back to the tradition of arranged marriages, these songs are designed to make the bride cry. İ might have shed a few tears myself that night…
YÜKSEK YÜKSEK TEPELERE – HIGH HIGH MOUNTAIN TOPS
Yüksek yüksek tepelere ev kurmasınlar – They shouldn’t build homes high up on the mountain tops
Aşrı aşrı memlekete kız vermesinler – They shouldn’t give girls to faraway lands
Annesinin bir tanesini hor görmesinler – They shouldn’t neglect the mother’s one and only
Babamın bir atı olsa binse de gelse – If my father had a horse, he could jump on it and come
Annemin yelkeni olsa açsa da gelse – If my mother had a sail, she could open it and come
Kardeşlerim yollarımı bilse de gelse – If my siblings knew the way, they could come
Uçan da kuşlara malum olsun – May the birds carry the message
Ben annemi özledim – I miss my mother
Hem annemi hem babamı – Both my mother and father
Ben köyümü özledim – I miss my village
*As any traveler trying to get by, i have managed to learn a few words and phrases in Turkish – but mostly related to food and beverage. For this trip? It was absolutely necessary to move beyond ordering beer!