Nene's favorite sport is socializing. Settling down on the carpet in as little clothes as possible to escape the merciless middle eastern heat, cracking walnuts, clicking on the TV to add a pleasant buzzing in the background as she gossips with the neighbors that had just stopped by for some tea. A comfort-loving granny. But on the flip side, she is definitely one to travel. Not far; planes have long since been ticked off her list as old age lunges. But to the Pazar, to the mountains, to the 'komsu' s' (neighbor's) house up the dirt road to collect the chicken's eggs. During this expedition, she would not snatch up the eggs and waddle back home immediately, but stick around for a while to chat with Fatma's downstairs neighbor, while I am invited to come inside and play with her baby. This is part of my love for Turkey; the unfaltering mutual trust. The connections, the relaxed attitudes, no one ever in a hurry. Nene is a strong symbol of these traits, for me. She reminds me to slow down and smell the flowers, forget about everyday dilemas like money and meetings (I normally do not have to worry about money and meetings, but of course she reminds others of these things as well, adults with such dilemmas), and relax, let your heart beat slowly, let the thoughts go in one ear and out the other, call over some friends and talk over tea and bread. Get a tan, visit the beach, watch some cartoons. (In fact, I never thought I would meet an adult who would actually tell me to watch cartoons. But, Nene is one of a kind; she more often then not would offer to click me to a cartoon channel, I never even had to ask.)
For years now, bad health has restrained her travels; driving up the mountainside to where my grandfather lives has become more and more difficult, as the higher she goes, the higher her blood pressure gets. But sometimes she makes it, with the help of medications, and then it is all worth it. In Dede's 4-room lizard and spider infested cottage (plus a large, luxurious peasant-style balcony) you can see that Nene fits right in the picture. Later, she helps us (Dede, Mother, Aunt Aysegul, cousin Meric, and me) harvest mulberries, Erik (plums), and walnuts (see http://cowbird.com/story/50187/Mountain_Man/). It is a tiring trek, hiking over the rocky territory which Dede has turned into farm land. Scrambling over rises, tripping on rocks, falling into prickly weeds while wasps and flies buzz curiously around our heads; and finally stumbling home with baskets filled to the brim with the harvested nuts and berries.
And then, Grandma crashes, we pretty much all crash, on the couch, on the floor, on the balcony, to doze through the fiery mid-day heat, regain our strength. When we wake up, night will have snuck up on us, and we will stuff our bellies with some rice and soup and then crawl to the porch to cool off as the sun slips into the sea. It is then when they come, hordes of them, and the porch light flickers; the spiders, the moths, the ants, the giant beetles, the tiny praying mantises; they all trickle to where our light shines by itself in the darkness, creeping onto the tiles just beyond our consciousness and suddenly there is party of them there, in the air, at the ground, on the ceiling; and then the little lizards will come, from the corners, from up the walls, from shadowy places, and I will pounce on them, careful to avoid the creepy giant beetles.
image: Nene and me fishing
Grandmother also worries. Her philosophy is that the able should take care of the less able, and she does not rest until everybody is taken care of, and everyone is in the right place, safe and happy. Often, she is so involved with worrying about everyone else and taking care of them, that she forgets about her own needs. Her turn never comes, you could say. Soon, up in the mountains, the worrying finally catches up with her, and she frets about Rejo, the family dog tied up at the house back in Kemer, about the orchards, about the doors being locked, about the neighbors, about anybody who could have stopped by at her house while she was away, about the rest the family. After a while, we just leave, leave the mountains and Dede and his trees, and drive back to the heat of sea-level life. I like both ends of the world-- the mountains and the ocean-- equally, and it was all right with me. But the mountains are where the bugs are; and Kemer was where my favorite animal was-- feral cats! I could sense Nene rejoice at being home, as well; even though the heat was scrutinizing.
Nene, as I one day found out, had based her career on a needle and thread. Her talent, I guess one among many, was sewing and crocheting. Throughout my childhood, I remember being handed many soft plush sweaters and socks and even a pair of home-made stuffed cats (so I was told; they didn't exactly look like cats, but oh well, it takes talent, I think, to make anything with expression and volume with just a needle, thread, and some stuffing). A classic grandmother. Last time I saw her, she was plotting with her daughter, my aunt, Aysegul, to knit a full-out pink children's sweater or two that could be sold at the Pazar. I, who has only sewn so much as a small pocket in my life, can not imagine how they will go about this. But, I know Nene can do this. She is persistent, she has talent, and she is one of a kind.
Do you have a grandmother like that?
image: Nene in a rocking chair, down in her house in Kemer