Seven years ago, The Boy and i hopped a plane for Istanbul to spend Christmas with The Girl. She’d accepted a job in Izmir the previous summer, and at the age of 25, moved here in July, 2011.
We spent Christmas Eve in a hotel, building the most beautiful Christmas Tree from beer bottles collected from the executive lounge. This year, my own tree is once again nestled in a box in my garage, five thousand miles away. That is perhaps the only similarity between that holiday and today.
2011: She knew no one when she moved here. She had made a few friends, was sharing an apartment with another English teacher at her school, and had a 45 minute commute to work via public bus.
2018: Her collective of friends is glorious, many couples including Turks and ex-pats. They surround her with love and support. She met and married a good man, bought a home, and continues to thrive as an English teacher in a private school.
2011: She’d studied Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at university. Not Turkish. Giving herself a crash course in the language during her first few months in country, she’d become conversant, and was able to take care of her personal business, connect with her students, and serve as an able tour guide.
2018: Fluent in the language, she can generally do rapid fire translation for me in real time. She has no trouble conversing with her in-laws, and has built friendships with vendors at the local shops. Unlike Europe, the vast majority of Turks speak no English, so she learned this by necessity.
2011: The Boy was 23, still attending university full time, and fighting The Demons that led me to believe he might not live to see 25. We were close, but i lived in constant fear of That Phone Call.
2018: He is married, with two children. After a stint in the Army, he’s made a home in the great plains, surrounded by extended family. A good government job, a fierce and gorgeous wife who has managed to tame the wild beast… When he and i were here seven years ago, this was an unimaginable future.
2011: i learned enough Turkish to order food and beer. To find a toilet. Navigate an airport or two. It wasn’t pretty, but i could generally pantomime my way through a transaction.
2018: After several visits, and over a year of online studies, i probably have the conversational skills of a small child – animals, colors, numbers, food. No problem with food/beverage, or shopping. i’ve even managed to have a few short conversations with my son-in-law’s family! They are probably more surprised than impressed, but are very supportive.
2011: The tree that year was beautiful. All that mattered was that we were together. The Boy and i were outside our comfort zone, traveling for a holiday in order to spend time with The Girl as she charted a new course for her life.
2018: The tree this year? Pretty gorgeous. Seven years ago, this was also an unimaginable future. A gentle reminder from the universe that we really don’t know where we’re going…
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game