Wings (A Wedding, Part 1)

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

Henna

*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!

Promises were made…

May 19th, 1984. 

i was such a hippie-goob.  Bad perm, owl glasses.  Wearing this dorky long white satin-esque dress that had belonged to my maternal grandmother.  He was wearing his only best suit – the Brooks Brothers rig his parents bought for him when he graduated from college in 1976.   Brown.  Soft plaid.  We weren’t ‘retro’.  Just dorks, and really fucking cheap.

Holy. Shit.

The wedding pictures are just precious*.  i was 22, he was 29.  Nerds?  You bet!  We’d been living together since i was 19, bought our first house a year later in 1983, and fought like animal rights activists in a medical school laboratory to keep the wedding tiny.  Much to the annoyance of my Mom, who wanted a big wedding** for SOMEONE.  i was pretty much her last hope, and she fought to make it bigger… while i fought to simplify.

We refused to send invitations.  Only announcements to most people – after the fact.  We’d purchased a house, and wanted to discourage gifts.  Some of the announcements actually said “daisyfae and EJR announce the change in tax filing status from ‘single’ to ‘joint’, with an estimated annual tax savings of $1,475.”  We were paying for the wedding, which took away much of Mom’s ability to influence.  But she was resourceful and tenacious as a pit bull.

My favorite example of the passive-aggressive battle?  Mom thought it would be nice to have a “Unity Candle” ceremony in the church.  This is where the Mother of the Bride and the Mother of the Groom bring lit candles to the Bride and Groom, who then light their own candles from the symbolic maternal flame.  And together, the sappy couple attempt to avoid holy conflagration and light a single candle together. 

Awwww…. So symbolic.  So fucking stupid.  i drew a line in the worn church carpet and said “NO!”  arguing that we’d be too nervous, and burn down the historic chapel and that would suck loudly.  She sulked.  i won.

Our guest list was drawn up via the following criteria:  “Who will never speak to us again if they aren’t invited?”  Total guest list was about 30 – all family except for three of our friends.  For our reception, we wanted to just go out to eat at a decent restaurant.  Figuring that our families might never get together again unless we dropped dead…. and even then?  Maybe not.

Arriving at the restaurant, i was quite annoyed to find that Mom had brought a plastic-flower encrusted styrofoam block.  She’d spray painted the styrofoam forest green.  Mounted upon it were a bunch of fucking candles.  Yep.  She got me on a technicality – “You said you didn’t want to do it at church…”.  Sneaky, sneaky little snake-mother, wasn’t she?

And so it went…  But it was a good party.  i got really drunk with my new sister-in-law.  DQ, then 12 years old, caught the bouquet.  The marriage was generally ok – he was, and is, a good human.  We eventually sucked as a couple.   Our genetic products are delightful. 

And 25 years ago today?  i really meant it when i promised “til death do us part”.  Maybe what i meant was the figurative death of “us”, rather than the actual heart-stoppage of either body***. 

Taking a page from Mom’s playbook…. a technicality?

 Shit happens.  Or sometimes, it doesn't...

*yes. there are candidate photos for the “awkward family photos” site  – sadly.  no. i won’t scan them in.  i respect him too much…

** Mom eloped the first time.  And the second time.  And it was a little shotgun event with the justice of the peace when she married Dad.  Oldest sister, S?  Ran away at 18.  My brother, T?  Pretty much the same thing.  And my other sister, T?  Lesbitarian.  Although she did manage to marry a Palestinian taxi driver at the height of the Persian Gulf War…. that was later.  A story for another time…

*** Paraphrased from “The Big Chill”:  “Rationalization is more important than sex.  Have you ever gone a week without a rationalization?”