... helping with English through the Melrose Human Rights Commission
The walls were beige, the carpet beige, the two sofas beige. There was no adornment anywhere. A pillow was provided, shoes taken away and the room was full of warmth. The warmth of family. A CD was playing music from a ney, or flute, and the percussion behind it was slow, rhythmic like a heart beat. Mesmerizing. All this in the corner apartment of a well kept apartment building on a busy Melrose street in June.
The young mother enjoyed the activity just outside her window. She wore a "house" scarf printed with beautiful red hibiscus and flowing clothes. She was a perfect hostess, setting up TV tables in front of her husband and me, the guest. "Teyze" or Aunt, in the Turkish language, I am an adopted auntie.
The rest of the family, her husband "the bridge" (who sometimes translates) and two lively girls, wore clothing that would not cause the slightest hint of surprise. He speaks in an effort to be clearly understood. He speaks with sincerity and good will. The older daughter is casual in her behavior and an old hand after one year in Massachusetts, in the U.S.A. where she attends school, and speaks English. It will be one more year until the father finishes his studies and they all go home to Turkey, together.
The little one dances, sings, and bounces about happily, making us all smile.
We eat our Turkish meal together, beautifully presented. Rice wrapped artfully in grape leaves, shaped lentils, potato and onion in a pastry shell, carrot cake and hot tea served in clear glass on a little silver tray. And should there be any space left, the exact duplicate meal is in readiness!
And I reciprocate. Supper at my place on another day, soon after.
Here, on a rainy day they arrive together bringing a milk desert, a Turkish delight. I said they might as well keep their shoes on but the little one removes almost everything upon arrival and is totally comfortable. I am not, really. I worry over whether the supper I provide will be totally Kosher and cooked properly. It is difficult to be both extremely polite and to refuse food prepared to please and it's difficult to want so much to please. But they ate the big salad with Greek dressing, the salmon, and the ice cream. The lentils were green where theirs had been orange and there was hesitation. But ice cream is easy.
I played Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and hoped they liked it,too. Being a quasi-artist, my one room seemed to be exploding with images of every configuration. All the colors primary and bold. I did not feel that I was a good example of American citizenry -- but more a renegade, flaming-liberal, anti-war, Democrat which indeed I am. I represent my fellow countrymen and women by my very uniqueness -- as we all do.
September 4, 2009