Monthly Archives: December 2018

It‘s 1am on Christmas morning.

I have nibbled the carrots. And I am just biting into my third Turkish delight when I hear “Mummy, what are you doing? That’s for Santa.” She is cross. And I am busted.

I recover quickly and tell her that I am eating Santa’s leftovers. I point out his glitter footprints (that I painstakingly create every year; all the way from the front door to the Christmas tree). I must make sure that the next house we live in has a fireplace. And put the Christmas tree right next to it.

I get away with it. Then she asks if Santa has replied to her letter. I usher her back to bed. And hunt for the letter.

She keeps throwing me these curve balls; the last time I was playing tooth fairy she left a note wanting to know what the fairies did with all the teeth they collected. It took me thirty (long) minutes to come up with we use them to make jewellery for the queen fairy.

It’s late. I hope she hasn’t left too many difficult questions for Santa.

I search the entire living room. And I still can’t find the letter. But that means Santa wouldn’t be able to find it either. So I’m off the hook. I can go to bed.

Then I remember the pile of empty glitter tubes in the bin. Mia mustn’t see them. I go outside to empty the bin. And that’s when I see it; Mia’s letter to Santa. She has taped it to the front door. I must remember to watch her every move before she goes to bed next year.

We have a magical morning. Then head to my brothers for a Turkish Christmas. That is a contradiction in terms. But somehow it works.

My nephew arrives with his (English) girlfriend. Jenny seems understandably overwhelmed by everyone. I introduce myself. And try to make her feel at ease.

She says she didn’t know ‘Kitty’ was a Turkish name. It isn’t.

I explain that it’s a nickname. I was two months premature. And my sister said I looked like a little kitten. Kitten became Kitty. And it stuck. I prefer it to my name (which is virtually unpronounceable).

I’ve always been Kitty. Except for the brief period (as a teenager) when I called myself Courtney. This led to my mother (tearfully) asking me if I was “one of those butch lesbians.”

This confused me somewhat. I told her that I was neither butch nor a lesbian. She responded with “So why are you calling yourself Colin then?” She had taken a call for ‘Courtney’ but somehow heard it as ‘Colin’. Apparently she had been praying for me to be ‘cured’ for weeks.

Jenny laughs. My mother isn’t amused. She glares at us before declaring “And Allah answered my prayers.” Then she turns to poor Jenny “Do you pray?” I can’t save Jenny. But I can save myself. I walk off.

It takes at least fifteen minutes to greet everyone. I go to kiss my elderly aunt. And she practically recoils from me. I was expecting that. She has been treating me like the devil incarnate since the infamous mosque incident (fifteen years ago).

It was my grandmother’s funeral. And my first time at a mosque; I volunteer to wait outside with my little niece. Then she starts crying hysterically. She only stops when I promise to take her to her mother. I plan to get in and out as quickly as possible.

There is a man leading the prayers from behind a white screen. And rows and rows of women; their heads covered with beautiful sheer headscarves. They are praying; going down on their knees, touching the floor with their foreheads and getting back up again.

I am fascinated. It looks like an overdressed low impact aerobics class.

My niece runs to her mother. And I turn to leave. But I am grabbed by that aunt. She throws a coat over my head. Then forcibly drags me into line and gestures to me to start praying.

I know this is the one time and place where I really can’t cause a scene. So I try to comply. But I am totally out of synch. Up when they are all down. And down when they are all up.

The winter coat over my head is heavy. It keeps falling down over my eyes. I stumble into my aunt. She falls and pulls the woman in front of her down too. Then I land on top of them.

I have given up trying to persuade my aunt to see the funny side of it (and visually, it really is hilarious).

I manage to land a kiss on her cheek before she swats me away. And starts muttering “tovbe, tovbe” (“forgive her for her sins”).

We eat in three sittings; turkey with all the trimmings (and shish kebab). Then everyone squeezes into the living room to pay tribute to my parents on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. My brother presents them with an engraved plaque. My father makes a very moving speech.

Then my mother decides to tell us all about their wedding night.

She explains that the entire village would wait outside the marital home for proof of the bride’s virginity. This would come in the form of a white bed sheet being hung from the window.

She laughs as she prepares to deliver the punch line; they had sex "many times" before they were married. So my father had snuck in a pigeon, slit its throat and used its blood for the sheet.

I find her little anecdote disturbing on so many levels.

My aunt is horrified. And starts with the whole“tovbe,tovbe” thing again. Everyone is shocked into silence. My father is mortified.

I must do something to break the tension. I pick up the remote, point it at the CD player and press play.

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” blares out.

My mother leaps up, pulls my father to his feet and shouts “Dance with me!” She stumbles back on to the sofa. And pulls my father down on top of her. Then she giggles like a little girl. This is very odd behaviour. Even for my mother.

My father is a very proud man who has an innately regal air about him. And he is clearly distressed by her antics. He stands up, smoothes down his jacket and straightens his tie.

She is still giggling. Then she kicks her legs up in the air and gives us all a glimpse of her knickers.

My sister picks up my mother’s glass. And takes a sip of her orange juice “Who gave her this?” My nephew is trying to sneak out of the door.

He has been giving her alcopops. She would never knowingly drink alcohol. My father slaps him around the head.

I grab Mia and make a timely exit. She declares that “this has been the best Christmas, ever!” It’s certainly been a memorable one.

We get home and there is a letter shoved halfway through the letter box. It’s from Anthony. I open the door. And find a small gift wrapped box on the mat. I pick it up and throw it in the bin; along with the letter. I’ve had quite enough drama for one Christmas.

My cheeks hurt. And I’m not sure I have a single breath left in my body. It is at this exact point that I ask myself the same question every year; why didn’t I buy a bloody balloon pump?

I still have another twenty to blow up. Mia always wakes up to a room full of balloons on her birthday. I take a deep (painful) breath. And continue.

Then Mark calls. He tells me that I sound out of breath and suspiciously asks if he is interrupting something. I don’t like his tone so I respond with “Yes, I’m squeezing in a quick orgy while Mia is asleep”. He is not amused. “Or I could just be blowing up balloons for tomorrow. Will you be meeting us here or at the circus?”

Apparently he won’t be meeting us at all. I ask him why. He doesn’t respond. That means he doesn’t have a good enough answer. I remind him that we had agreed (when we split up) that her birthday was the one day of the year that she should spend with both her parents.

He mutters something about having “other people’s feelings to consider”. I ask him to elaborate. He says “I have to be able to have a life. I can’t plan everything around Mia”.

I point out that he is free to do as he pleases for (at least) twenty six days of the month. Surely he can plan around her for four days a month? And one day a year for her birthday?

Then it hits me “Does your girlfriend have anything to do with this?” He hesitates before confirming that ‘Jade’ is uncomfortable about him being around me because “we have a history”. He claims to be “in a difficult position”. I tell him it’s fairly simple from where I’m standing; his daughter should take priority over his girlfriends’ insecurities.

He says it’s complicated. I tell him I would never put any boyfriend of mine before my daughter. I call him weak and pathetic. Then I hang up. I am incredulous. How can he do that? What if Jade decides she is "uncomfortable" about him seeing Mia altogether because she is clearly a reminder of our "history"? Will he just abandon her?

It would be catastrophic for Mia if she were to be rejected by her father. That would be unforgivable.

Mark calls back. He suggests we alternate; one year with him, one year with me. I say “Her birthday is the day of her birth. Who gave birth to her again? Oh yes, that was me! I intend to spend every birthday with her. You will always have the option to join us, provided you can locate your spine”.

I had to play the birth card. I bloody well earned that right; the whole experience was so painful. And surreal (with comedy interludes).

I’m lying there, legs spread, trying to give birth. And the receptionist keeps opening the door, relaying messages from my family. At one point she comes in and says "your brother wants to know when you’re going to give birth. And quite frankly, I’m getting curious myself". I tell her to fuck off as the midwife ushers her out of the room.

The pain is indescribable. Apparently at one point I get up and try to leave, “I can’t do this now, I’m going home. I’ll come back tomorrow”.

I’m pushing and pushing. But nothing is happening. The midwife tells me I’m not trying hard enough. I scream obscenities at her.

The door opens again. It’s my mother. She is holding a plate of dolma (stuffed vine leaves) “You’ve been in here for a very long time. You must be hungry”. She starts trying to feed me. The midwife takes the plate away from her. She starts crying and screaming “My poor baby is in pain” before she is forcibly removed.

Then Mia’s heart rate slows; the midwife tells me that she is in distress. And if I don’t get her out in the next five minutes they’ll have to use a vontuse. I’ve seen pictures of vontused babies with squashed heads. And I’m not going to let that happen.

I close my eyes, zone out and several pushes later she is out. I look down and say “Mia”. Then realise that she isn’t making a sound. They press an emergency alarm, cut the cord and rush her out of the room.

Mark looks at me helplessly and I say “Go with Mia”. Please god, no. I did everything I was supposed to do. Please let her be ok. The door swings open and this woman comes in with a camera and says "Oh good, you tore" and starts taking pictures of my (not so) private parts (I had agreed she could do it as part of their research earlier).

I’m numb. It feels like an eternity before the door opens and Mark says “That’s Mia crying, she’s fine”. They bring her back in and hand her to me. She is perfect.

We’re admitted into a ward and Mark is sent home. The nurse tells me that I am only to take her out of the cot to feed her then put her straight back in.

I take Mia out of the cot as soon as the nurse pulls the curtain behind her. I put her against my chest. The only thing that will be familiar to her right now is my heartbeat. All night I can hear babies crying while Mia sleeps peacefully on my chest. I stroke her hair. And I’m totally overwhelmed by love.

So I’ll be damned if I’m not going to spend every anniversary of that day with her until she decides she wants to spend it with someone else.

Mia wakes me up at 5am. She wants to show me that she has grown taller (overnight).

She climbs into my bed for morning snuggles. I explain that her daddy won’t be coming to the circus with us. She asks me why, “He is a silly weak man who puts his penis before his daughter” would be the honest answer. But obviously I can’t say that. So I tell her that he has a fear of clowns. She looks disappointed “But can’t we see him after the circus?” I clearly didn’t think that one through.

I have to make the next excuse fool proof “No sweetheart we can’t. The truth is we both love you so much that neither of us wants to share you on your birthday. So we have decided that you are going to have two birthdays every year. One with me. And one with daddy”.

Her little face lights up “Two birthdays?” I tell her “Yes and do you know how special that makes you? Only you and the queen have two birthdays”. She giggles happily.

It’s going to be a wonderful day. I’ll make sure of that. Then I’ll go and throttle her father.

I have been forced to listen to my mother talking at me for some time. Her voice is really starting to reverberate (painfully) inside my head. I tune out for a while. And go to my ‘happy place’. I stay there until I feel calm enough to come back.

Unfortunately, I tune back in just as she is explaining that I have depreciated greatly in value “We can’t be too choosy. You are divorced. You have a child. And you are in your thirties. But you are educated and you have nice breasts; so I’m sure we’ll be able to find someone who would be willing to take you on”. She squeezes my (clenched) hand reassuringly.

I tell her (again) that I do not want them to find me a husband. She responds with “You think we should trust you to find your own? And let you shame us with a Greek? Whatever next? A black man?” I remind her that her best friend is black. But apparently she is “Turkish first. Black second.”

Then she infuriates me further by declaring that they are going to find me a husband whether I like it or not.

I take a deep breath and count to ten. There is only so much self control I can exercise. I firmly repeat that I will not be getting married, petulantly adding “And you can’t make me.”

I can feel myself regressing. My mother has that effect on me. It is all I can do not to stamp my feet.

My father makes an (unsuccessful) attempt to diffuse the situation “We can’t force you to do to anything. All we are asking is that you allow us to introduce you to men we think are good marriage material"

I want to scream. But my voice is hoarse from trying to explain to them that I don’t actually need to have a man (Turkish or otherwise) in my life.

I should probably just save my energy. And pretend to play along. “And if I don’t like any of them? Will you give up and stop going on at me?”

My father agrees. My mother doesn’t. “You’ve always given in to her. Maybe if you had laid her across your knee once in a while, she would have more respect for us now. A man who doesn’t beat his daughter beats his own knee”.

She slams her hand down on the table dramatically. Then she turns to me “You will like one of them”

I’ve had enough. It’s time to put a stop to this. “Actually, I won’t because I have no intention of meeting any of them. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it”.

My mother is fighting a losing battle. And she knows it. The emotional blackmail will come next. I pre-empt it by saying “You look flushed. Has your blood pressure gone up? Perhaps you should go home and measure it. We wouldn’t want you having a stroke now, would we?” I have left her with nothing to say.

But I may have gone too far. She looks puce. I don’t think my mother has a 'happy place' She starts to reach down. I jump up and make a run for it. I manage to pull the door behind me just as her shoe slams into it. She may not be as fast as she used to be. But she still has a pretty good throwing arm.

I have a restless night punctuated with nightmares where I am being chased by hoards of fat, ugly, naked, sweaty, hairy Turks; with my mother running alongside them shouting “Kitty! Stop! We can’t be too choosy!”

I wake up late (and exhausted). The last two days and nights have literally knocked the stuffing out of me. We get to school just as the whistle blows.

The ‘mummy mafia’ stop talking and stare disapprovingly at me as I rush past them. I hear one of them (the ‘Godmother’) say “Why is she always late? She only has one child to get ready”.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t rise to it. I have been ignoring the bitchy looks and snide comments for months.

But then she makes the mistake of smugly adding “And it’s not like she has a husband to worry about, is it?”

I stop. And turn back. “What exactly has my timekeeping got to do with you?” I am right up in her face “Well?” She looks around at her cronies for support. But they are all looking at their feet.

She finally stammers “Nothing. It’s nothing to do with me”. I respond “Precisely. So keep this” (I prod her nose) “out of it in future”. I walk off, leaving her red faced and open mouthed.

I head straight to the gym. And pummel a punch bag until I calm down.

Then I go for a nice long swim. I notice heads turning as I climb out of the pool and walk across to the steam room. I see men (and women) nudging each other and nodding towards me. I must admit, I am in pretty good shape. My body looks toned and lithe in my black bikini.

I come out of the steam room and take another dip in the pool so I can milk it. My battered ego needs feeding. I climb slowly out of the pool (I imagine I am Ursula Andress in that iconic ‘rising out of the sea’ scene).

I modestly pretend not to notice the attention I am attracting.

I feel revitalised. Maria is welcome to Anthony; I haven’t depreciated in value at all; and I can compete with a pre-pubescent blonde button nosed model without getting a facelift.

I walk into the changing room; straight towards the full length mirror. And that’s when I see it. My tampon string swinging between my legs; a long white cotton reminder that pride (almost) always comes before a fall.

I get home to find a strange little man waiting on the doorstep. He looks Turkish. Apparently he is here to carry out a valuation of the house. I have to hand it to her, she is being very imaginative. But I am not a total idiot. I tell him I know that my mother sent him. And that I am sure he is a nice man. But I am simply not interested in a relationship with anyone right now.

He seems genuinely confused. And on closer inspection, he looks more Indian than Turkish (I think it was the moustache that threw me).

He wasn’t sent by my mother. He was sent by the bank. The mortgage is in arrears. I insist it isn’t. Then I call Mark. It is. It would appear that he has neglected to tell me that his company is in trouble. And that he has defaulted on the mortgage.

There can only be one (il)logical explanation for the events of the past 48 hours; someone has put the evil eye on me.

I go inside and light up the remainder of the olive leaves and circle my head with them “your eyes to your arses, your eyes to your arses”