One thing I’m finding valuable about this year is that it’s taking us back to a base line in regards to things we take for granted. For instance, I would pay significant money right now for mac ‘n cheese, molasses, vanilla extract, Triscuits, and espresso. What’s more, I really miss clean, free public bathrooms, along with having a car. It would feel like a bonus birthday to have a gym and central heating within easy reach.
And that’s what I’m appreciating: what I miss. In truth, I feel really fortunate to be able to miss things, as that process highlights how felicitous our “landed” lives are.
More than anything, we’ve been missing the easy feeling of established friends and family, of knowing that we have Our People–running along a continuum from acquaintance to parent–behind us, next to us, with us. When you have Your People, you live in context. You define yourself by who and where they are.
In a year extracted from Our People, we have the challenge of figuring out what a place is without those touchstones. More compellingly, we are being reminded of how new touchstones heave forth; we haven’t been born into relationships in Turkey, nor do we gain them by living in the same neighborhood or attending the same school. Rather, we’re figuring out who we are in Turkey step by step, and that’s the revelation.
So far, we’ve meandered along this path: we came to Turkey because Byron’s dad worked for the father of a woman named Christina, and she was here and welcomed us. Then we got here. Christina knows people. Of her people, one jumped out as a good match: a woman named Elaine, who has a Turkish husband and two kids. Now Christina feels her relationship with Turkey has reached its conclusion, and she is about to leave. Subsequently, we’ve worried we’ll be left with only Elaine as in-country support and that we’d have the poor, beleagured woman on the phone every ten minutes with our questions. But then we met our expat neighbors, and they had parties and invited us. We went. Knowing that our mental health could hinge on creating a greater web of connections, we chatted with people who seemed twelve steps removed from what we’d normally be drawn to. We had them over for pasta. They will have us over for barbeque.
In the meantime, as we cast out feelers in a myriad of directions, Christina and Elaine continue to yield contacts, and suddenly, breathlessly, at the end of this week,
we have gone from a point of “when we were born, we knew no one; when we came to Turkey, the same was true” to “one person trips to another, which expands to a circle, which slowly starts turning.”
All of which is to say: we had a Halloween party, and, outside of Christina and Elaine, we invited strangers, and some of them came
and brought their children
and now my cell phone contacts list has grown past two entries,
the process of which makes me contemplate how the weave of relationships back home
built itself one thread at a time over the course of a lifetime.