Saturday, November 20, 2010


On the first morning of Bayram, LE was staying with the in-laws and my late morning dreams were infiltrated by a cow mooing. At first I didn't wake up all the way because I'm kind of getting used to the sound of cows outside. There are a few who live outside my office who tend to escape and run down the road, mooing loudly and looking for trash bins to dig in. I'm not sure what compels them to suddenly run, because I've never seen a cow do much of anything unless provoked.

Then I woke up all the way and was all, "WTF? Why is there a cow outside?" but then I remembered it was Bayram and just felt kind of pleased that we live in the sort of neighborhood where people can still cut their kurban in their gardens. Sometimes the lack of regulation is okay.

And after awhile the cow wasn't mooing anymore.

Later, BE called me over to the balcony railing to see what was going on down there, where a few men were joyfully butchering the cow on a plastic tarp. It was such a jolly time, with lots of happy shouting from what sounded like dozens of people in the house below. BE expected me to get all upset, but they were making a very neat job of it, and anything that might have upset me such as a head, fur, or rivers of blood, was nowhere to be seen.

Not that I'm the kind of hypocrite that eats meat and objects to violent animal death. It's just that it was a very small cow, and if I had seen its baby face I might have been kind of sad.

Later, we went to the in-laws', where LE was just on his way to the park with Dede, so when he saw us he thought that meant he didn't get to go to the park anymore. He started doing that really funny thing 3-year-olds do when they get mad or something appears to not be going their way. It starts with a fake-cry wail and bouncing up and down at the knees. As it progresses, the real tears come and the bouncing gets higher and higher until the child gets some air and is jumping up and down really fast, his wail going "uhh-uhh-uhh-uhh." We just kind of ignored him, since he wasn't listening to our assurances that he still got to go to the park. Once we were safely over the threshold of the flat, the wailing stopped and LE said something cheerful and completely unrelated to the tearful tantrum of only seconds before.

3-year-olds are very mercurial people.

Later in the afternoon, Uncle, Ukrainian Aunt, and their 5-year-old turned up. The boys went completely batshit with the obnoxious, noisy guns MIL keep buying for LE despite (or because of) our repeated requests to stop it. I went into the kitchen to smoke with Ukrainian Aunt. BE later joined us shamefully because Baba and Uncle were hogging the balcony, which meant BE was demoted to child status and forced to smoke in the kitchen with the womenfolk. Ha! Not that he gets why I resent it that women and children get lumped together in the first place, because he rarely seems to get why I might get upset with the same sorts of things he gets upset about. He seems totally immune to irony. Anyway.

With just a bit of underhanded pressure and avoidance of the underhanded resistance, I managed to get LE and I allowed to join the trip to the cemetery. Usually it's just the menfolk who go. This year, they tried to bring LE and 5-year-old cousin along, and still dump me in the house with the women. No way. Trapped in the house with MIL waiting for the men to return from some manly adventure is akin to an outer circle of Dante's hell. Not actually painful, but intensely annoying, and filled with a deep longing to get out of there yet no matter what time it is, the menfolk are always "on the way," and will always be back within a half an hour.

So we all got to go. LE was thrilled, as his obsession with death continues, intensified by waiting near a gorgeous old cemetery every day for our service bus to school. The cemetery where BE's paternal grandparents are buried is also old, and so very cool. The graves are so packed in there's nowhere to walk except to balance along the sometimes crumbling marble edging of family gravesites. LE kept asking where all the dead people were, and I kept telling him they were under the ground and to be careful not to step on them. For the boys, it was all a big fun obstacle course. It was for BE and I too, as we surreptitiously passed a cigarette back and forth and tried to avoid his mother, who insists on physically helping everyone along, which doesn't work because she's so short and she just ends up pulling everyone over.

At his grandparents' grave, BE pointed out some bones sitting on a nearby grave. People bones for sure-- part of a jaw, an ulna, and what may have been a broken scapula. The way BE pointed them out made me think those bones have been coming up from that grave as long as he can remember. I had to resist an urge to take one of them, because I really like creepy things like that. I told BE this, and he gave me an extremely dirty look. He's very superstitious about anything death-related, and I suppose the dead man's family would appreciate my swiping a bone even less than they do the dogs that probably got to the bones a long time ago.

The family got a guy to clear off the family grave while they said a quick prayer. As he took off the inch-thick pile of leaves and put them aside, I started worrying that BE's grandparents' bones might also come up someday if there's no mulch to sit there and make new soil. I hoped the guy would replace the leaves after we'd left. Or maybe they should put down new soil. I'd bring up the helpful suggestion with BE if I thought he'd even answer me, which he wouldn't because he's so averse to talking about anything death-related.

When the guy started turning up the soil on the cleared graves, a smell came up that must only exist in places where people are buried without embalming or coffins. It was a sweet organic rot smell that's just ever so slightly different from the sweet-rot smells of compost or worm-castings or manure. I started thinking some Victorian thoughts about grave dirt making death seem so close, and that was okay because the smell wasn't really bad, just noticeable and different and I like having creepy Victorian thoughts anyway. Then I wondered what it would be like to be the grave-clearing guy, and smell that soil every day.

On the way out, we passed a grave where three brothers were buried. The first grave said "Veteran of the Korean War" under the name, and gave the military information about him. The second grave said "Professor Expert of Anesthesiology." Under the name of the third one, it said "Best Husband and Father in the World."

Guess which one was my favorite?

After the cemetery, we went to a shopping mall to blow the kids' minds in a play place with video games and rides and flashing, moving lights in different colors all over. My kid held out as well as could be expected, but he totally crumbled a couple hours later at dinner. He needed lots of cuddling and then he fell asleep before the car had even left the parking space, thus bringing his busy day, and the first day of Bayram, to an end.

I really like Kurban Bayram, by the way. Everyone seems much merrier than they do at Şeker Bayram. Even though it's a religious holiday, it lacks the dreary pall of piousness that lingers into Şeker Bayram. This Kurban Bayram was one of the nicest yet, because we just had a good long family day the way normal people are supposed to do, and most of the day I felt like a normal person.

The next few days passed more or less uneventfully. We just enjoyed the long stretch of empty days before us.

Yesterday morning, on the last day of Bayram, I was dozing while LE was having his morning pee. I heard some thumping on the window and I popped awake immediately, already asking LE what the hell he was up to even before my eyes had opened all the way, because we are on the 5th floor so what else could it be but something horrible? But he had already thrown his (lucky for me) dry diaper on my face as his way of letting me know it was dry again, and was headed downstairs to get his dad to make him breakfast. I looked out the window and there was a huge seagull standing on the sill outside tapping on the window with its beak.

Or maybe it was an albatross, I wouldn't know.


Aunt Sis said...

Sarah--I love reading your blogs, although I ought to be more regular about it. So can you tell me what Bayram is exactly?

And congratulations on the job! You'll find a way to pay those bills, creative as you are!

Looking forward so much to Thanksgiving and your folks. Oh I miss you so.....

Stranger said...

I miss you too. Thanksgiving was a little sad this year after I heard all you guys were getting together.

Bayram just means holiday. This most recent one translates like Sacrifice Holiday, and people sacrifice a cow or ram. Then they give most of the meat to the poor, or to family and friends. It's to commemorate when God stopped Abraham from killing his son. In Christianity, the son is Isaac (the son of Abraham and Sarah who went off to be the father of the Jews), but in Islam the son is Ismael (the son of Abraham and his handmaiden Hagar, and who became the father of the Muslims). So I don't know who's right about which son it was.

In any case, it's the jolliest and longest holiday here.

Hugs and kisses.