I was going back through some old writing from my first year in Turkey and came across this. Enjoy.
Reflecting last evening in the full moon brightness of our small balcony, I began to recount in my mind the things that I love. Not like ice cream or apple pie, but the moments in this journey called life that bring fully laden joy to the everyday, those things that make you shudder with delight, make you catch your breath, make you wish like crazy that someone would invent a camera that would capture the emotion along with the action. I thought of a few and perhaps will add more later.
I was putting the kids to bed last night, a raucous event on our house because we have no set routine or schedule other than brushing teeth and putting on pajamas. It sometimes goes quickly, sometimes drags on for over an hour, but is nothing like our baby wise friends whose kids kiss them goodnight and lay quietly in the stillness until sleep overtakes them. No. We get water, we get toys, we read books, we play bank, turn off the light and slow down and try something new. Last night Malachi was the sleepy one and quickly faded into his deep, undisturbable slumber. Sonora, her usual self was a bundle of energy and like most nights, I tried a lot of different approaches before giving up in frustration and pulling in beside her on her twin bed. As she continued her endless babble with her dolls I lay there in the dark pleading with God to make her fall asleep.
God replied, “Don’t you like the daughter I gave you?”
“Well, yes, of course I do. It’s just. . . Well, I have a lot to do.”
God replied, “More important than being with your daughter?”
“Well . . . , no. Not really, but she needs the sleep and, um, um,”
I gave up. I watched her play. I listened to the ways she talked differently to each of her dolls as she practiced mothering them, the way she covered them up and gave them bottles.Then suddenly she was done. She put her dolls down. She picked up her blanky and crawled down to the end of the bed where my head was, plopped her blanky on my shoulder, her head on her blanky and threw her arm across my chest. She snuggled in, drew closer, gave a deep sigh and fell asleep. Just like that. I listened to her breathing for some time, felt her, even in sleep drawing close to me. I sighed, wrapped my arms around her and whispered into the dark of the night, “Thank You.”
Malachi learned to pray from a worm. Its name is Hermie and he is the creation of Max Luccado, but Malachi learned to pray from him. They are frank prayers; clear, direct, open-eyed and said to a God who might be sitting on the edge of the bed next to him listening intently. I hope he always prays like this, especially in church in front of people because it will make everyone uncomfortable. Last fall, we were returning to the farm on a cold star filled November night. Malachi was in his car seat looking out the window. I am not sure what was going on in his head, but he had then recently been asking a lot of questions about God and where he was and such. Anyway, the car was quiet except for the sound of the tires on frozen pavement when Malachi’s voice broke into the silence. He sounded urgent and a little frustrated.
“Hey God. Could you come down a little closer so I can hear you. I can’t hear you way up there.”
That was it. His prayer to God to come near. Now we are in Turkey and Malachi still prays in his frank, Hermie way. Last week his gold fish ‘Fishy’ was sick and had not been doing much besides floating in his coffee cup fish house. I was pretty sure the fish was a goner. Malachi was distraught. So we suggested he pray for the fish. Malachi stepped up to the table and looked into the tank.
“God. Fishy is sick. Can you heal him so he won’t die. Thanks.”
The next morning, Fishy was swimming around his tank looking much healthier than the day before.
Soccer is big here. It is big everywhere in the world outside of the U.S. of course, but last month I came to a new understanding, appreciation and love for the game and what I am learning it represents. Euro Cup 2008 was in June. Turkey competed and put on a strong showing. Fielding a team depleted by injuries, they lost in the semi finals to Germany. We watched every game even though they started at 9:45 pm. It was a great run and amazingly fun to see a nation come alive to cheer for their team. It is a phenomenon we can’t understand in the states. It highlights the collective consciousness that seems to mark this culture in stark contrast to the individualistic culture of the states. During the Euro Cup, 70 million Turks sat together in front of the television, a monolithic mass of frenzied fans all pulling in the same direction on the cosmic gods of soccer. The first goal we scored brought the neighborhood to its feet in shrill delight and loud screaming that carried out their open windows, mixed with their neighbors cheers out in the streets and came in through our open windows. It was loud and startled us and sent us giddily running for the camera, rushing out on our balcony, hoping to video a bit of what no one back home would believe. Every goal for two weeks was like this and sometimes if the goal was near the end of the game and if the victory was imminent, fireworks would burst into the night sky as well. We cheered our team on together. This open windowed sharing of mirth and enthusiasm for the team is reflective of the corporate nature of the culture. I had read about this idea, corporate versus individual, but had never quite grasped its depth. Not that I grasp it now, but I am beginning to understand. When our man Nihat scored in the last-minute to cap a three goal rally in the final fifteen minutes of our game against Czechoslovakia, I jumped to my feet with 70 million Turks, ran to our open window and leaning out, hollered my ecstasy into the streets of our great, corporate, victorious night.