Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Typical Thing


I meant it when I said I've been keeping a list.

In the park a couple of months ago, some woman was hovering over LE as he climbed the stairs to the slide going "Careful! Careful! You'll fall! You'll fall!" as though I weren't standing right there and as though a 2 1/2 year old isn't perfectly capable of climbing stairs. Her hovering was actually causing him more problems than the stairs were because she kept kind of grabbing at him and knocking him about.

Then suddenly she took hold of the waistband of his pants and pulled, which made him lose his balance. She caught him and started tucking in his shirt. "Atlet yok," she chided me. "Rüzgar çarpar, hasta olur." ("He's not wearing an undershirt. The wind hits, he'll get sick.") The she went on to explain to me how she currently had a cold because of the wind and was just trying to save LE from the same terrible fate. Of having a cold. From the deadly wind.

Yeah, it was windy but it was also like 75 degrees outside. A lot of Turkish people seem to consider the temperature based on the date rather than actual heat. After September 1, it's FALL and it's COLD and therefore EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, even though the summer heat can hang on into November sometimes. Her own kid was wearing a coat, scarf, and woolly hat with fur-lined boots and the woman had a winter coat and sweater on. I was in a tank top and capris.

LE and I have been spending a lot of time in the park. The good park with the good sand. It seems to be the main hangout for the very small kids, though in the afternoon it fills up with bigger kids who play annoying games like Let's Kick the Football at the Play Structure Even When Some Small Kid is Teetering Up There or Let's Chase Each Other With Our Eyes Closed and Knock Small Kids Out Of Our Way.

When it's small kids though it's mostly okay, unless, heaven forbid, some kid has brought a toy, which immediately results in Toddler Dramas. As much as I love LE, he's definitely the turd in the punchbowl with the Toddler Dramas because he snatches things from other kids, even babies, and runs away. I quit bringing toys with us to the park ages ago because he quickly loses interest and I'm stuck carrying the damn thing around. But whenever some other kid has a toy, LE suddenly will simply die if he can't have it, even if it's a toy he never would have given a second thought about otherwise. So I dread the toys in the park.

This isn't special for Turkey. In America it was the same, though the drama played out differently. In Turkey, people tell their kids to share but don't force it, and then often produce another toy so that no child cries even for one second. In America, all the Park Mommies had to make a big show about how they were Teaching Their Kids To Share. So they'd give their kid a toy, and wait until another kid tried to take it, then try to force their kid to give up the beloved possession, and then all the kids would cry and the parents would start to offer elaborate excuses more or less designed to exonerate themselves from the guilt of being someone who Didn't Teach Their Kids To Share.

I was kind of the Park Asshole because LE always had this smelly Nerf basketball that he would never share (and I don't mean good smelly-- I mean smelly the way things get in Oregon because they stay damp for a long time). I never tried to make him share it, and would just politely tell the parent their kid had no chance at the smelly Nerf basketball. I know better than to try to take a ball from my kid. No Teachable Moment is worth upsetting him that much.

For the most part, the Park Mommies in America were a pretty scary bunch. I got along all right with the foreign mommies (thank goodness there were more of them than American Mommies), but there was only one American Mommy I really liked because she acknowledged this crappy sharing behavior and didn't really get into it. Her kid had this plastic lawnmower that blew bubbles when pushed. Their house was near the park and the kid would suddenly run off to fetch his mower and his mom would go, "Oh shit, the Drama Mower." And indeed it was. A cruel bit of gossip other Park Mommies talked about with furrowed eyebrows and voices dripping with silent indictment was that they'd gone and bought their kids their own Drama Mowers because that kid Wouldn't Share. Oh, the shame. I suppose when I wasn't there they harped on about the smelly Nerf basketballs they'd had to buy their kids.

I tried to write a post about the American Mommies when I was in America, but I couldn't reduce the rant to a post-able length, about all their tacit disapproval and judging and "I'm not being competitive but here's how my kid is so much better/smarter/nicer than yours and here's how I'm such a better parent than you are" ultra-competitiveness. It actually made me miss the Turkish Mommies when they do Typical things like tuck in my kid's shirt and look at me like I'm an idiot.

Even though it annoys the hell out me when people jump in and take care of my kid right in front of me as though I'm a neglectful parent because I don't know how to protect my kid from dangerous things like Air and Wind and Cold Things, I admit I appreciate that they're at least up front about it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm Back By Popular Demand

Well, not that popular. One person over at David's English Teaching World mentioned that I haven't updated the blog in ages and after I got all squishy that someone cared, I decided to write something already.

I've actually been keeping a list of wee events in my somewhat solitary existence. Not that LE isn't company, he's just not grown-up company and all he ever really wants from me is candy and Danino and to be turned upside down. I also have a few photos in my camera I've meant to post about and I just haven't done it because every time I find a moment to post, I decide I'd rather watch TV or sleep. It's no coincidence that "Mama so lazy" is one of LE's sentences.

One photo is of another empty plate from some food my neighbor brought up. Since that second plate there's been a third. The plates have grown increasingly less daunting and I've been good and returned them filled both times. So, starting with the plates, I'll describe something Not Typical that's been going on around here. As usual, it requires a lengthy Context.

Not Typical
Not typical is this neighbor suddenly being nice. And not "Hello, you must come for tea okay my obligations with you are finished" nice, but genuinely nice. I'm surprised, given all the early morning (like 5am it's fucking dark outside early) scampering and dancing and screeching and banging of blocks and Hot Wheels on the floor that goes on right above their heads. Other neighbors are suddenly being nice too. Another woman passing by us in the park came and introduced herself and said I should come over anytime and if I ever had a problem with the baby or whatever to please call because her daughter is a nurse. She has the unfortunate position of living in the flat above us, and is thus also subject to the same wee-hour cacophony.

Look, we've lived in this building for just over 6 years. In that time, a few neighbors have been nice but no one has ever made any overtures to be my friend. When we first moved here, it was quite the opposite. The yönetici's wife used to sit on her first floor balcony and shoot witchy looks my way. Once, shortly after we moved in, I must have dropped a cigarette in the parking lot and she went to BE and told him to tell me not to throw my trash around anymore, and that maybe because I was foreign I didn't know any better because that's not what Turks do.

Ahem. That's right my friends, Turks don't litter, ever.

Then there was this awful woman on the 5th floor who started screaming at me because water from my planters was dripping onto her windows. She kept telling me I was over-watering my plants, which I wasn't but what the hell did she know about anything anyway? Then her husband screamed at me. Then BE went down to sort them out and the husband pushed his screeching wife into the house and they had one of those, "Look, abi, I'm sorry but my wife is making me crazy" conversations and he and BE made friends. After that, the husband started being nice to me but only when his wife wasn't around. It turned out one of my planters had a hole in the bottom I didn't know about which was why the water was dripping.

Fast forward to two years later, when I was about 8 months pregnant. The yönetici's wife popped out of her house all aglow and suddenly started being nice to me. I had no idea why but I figured she noticed I was pregnant and thought it was cute or whatever. I also noticed she'd had her hair done differently and was wearing make-up, so who knows, maybe she had been depressed and started some new meds. Or maybe she had assumed I was a prostitute or some other type of undesirable (there are a quite few Eastern European prostitutes around here, and homeowners in this neighborhood don't seem to take kindly to renters in any case) but since I was pregnant it meant we were actually married after all. Except later when she saw me with newly-born LE, she said she didn't even know I was pregnant. It's true, I didn't show much except for that last month and the two weeks I went overdue. Anyway she's been nice ever since. She even took my side in the Asshole Upstairs issue, mentioned below.

As for the 5th floor water lady, there were no water issues for two years, and then one day when LE was about four days old she came banging on our door and ringing the bell just as I was dropping off to sleep after recently getting rid of MIL and sleeping for the first time since the birth. I tried to ignore it but she continued to bang and ring until I answered the door, then proceeded to bawl me out for washing my balcony and dripping water onto hers. What? I just had a fucking baby and you think I'm out washing the balcony? I blinked at her until she went away. The next day she saw us with LE in the parking lot and was all, "Where'd you get that baby?" So maybe she really did think I was washing my balcony, as though I'd actually do such a thing.

And apparently I really didn't show much when I was pregnant which explains why no one ever gave me seat on the bus and why that fuckwit honked at me for falling down on the ice in front of his car at 8 1/2 months instead of helping me up.

So that about covers my previous interactions with neighbors. I'm skipping the asshole who used to live upstairs from us who would bang our ceiling and ring our bell every time LE cried at night. One night BE went up to him at 3am to tell him to go fuck himself, meanwhile his idiot wife was screeching "Pick up the baby! Pick up the baby!" as though I were too stupid to do that and their banging and ringing had nothing to do with his extended crying, not to mention mine. The asshole neighbor said that BE must not be LE's real father if he cries at night, then he ducked behind his wife and fortunately someone called security before that got too ugly. Anyway.

Anyway, fast forward to now. Suddenly, neighbors are going out of their way to be friendly. Bringing food. Extending invitations. Real invitations, not just being-nice invitations. I feel bad for being suspicious it was all about trying to get cheap English lessons, but honestly, can you blame me?

I don't know what to make of any of it. BE says we've just moved to a friendlier part of the building, but I find that a little facile. Why would floors 1 through 4 contain nice people while floors 5 through 8 contain shitheads with the exception of the lovely old man who gave us those perfect apples from the village and the sweet old people who used to live across from us? It defies logic.

Then again, lots of things do, so what do I know?

More typical and not-so-typical things to follow...