Pneumonia and Mom
“Mom, Emine Hoca will make the first selections today! Then, all teachers will narrow down the candidates to 3. From those 3, only 1 will get to be the queen, and the other 2 will walk behind her as her maids of honor. I so want to be the queen!”
“Hülyam, it’s alright if someone else is chosen. Every one of the girls in your class has a chance to be the queen or a maid of honor. And so do you. Your teacher’s task is not easy. You all are so very pretty.”
“Yes, but, Mom, I really, really want to be the queen! Emine Hoca showed us the drawings of the queen’s costume and what her princesses will wear. The queen’s dress is the most beautiful!”
“Sweetie, please, keep in mind that you may not be among the 3. That won’t mean you are not as pretty as your classmates. Don’t forget: your teacher can only choose 3 from among you all.”
“I know, Mom. But I think she will pick me. She loves me so. I am her best student. Whenever I go back to school after being sick, she hugs me and welcomes me back with a big shout to class. You know that!”
“Yes, darling, I know. But still . . .”
Without waiting to hear the end of Mom’s sentence, I left for my room merrily. I had my schoolwork yet to finish before I could start my day-dreaming of the day.
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“MOM! MOOOOOM! I got it!!!! I am the queen!”
“Oh, Sweetie, I am so happy for you!”
“Thanks, Mom. I am so excited. You will start sewing my costume right away, right?”
“Of course, my darling. But first, I have to buy the materials.”
“Can you do that now? Please!”
“Once your Dad is home, we will both go out and get everything I need. Okay?”
Swimming in glee, I went to my room again. Schoolwork could not wait. And “23 Nisan” was just around the corner. What a marvelous day that was going to be! I, the queen of the entire children’s parade, was going to walk in our city’s biggest stadium, 19 Mayıs Stadı that I had seen only in pictures. And on one of our most important national holidays, at that. In front of thousands of people. Oh Ankara, I so love you! Emine Hoca, I so love you!
As soon as Dad came home from work, Mom left with him to buy the materials for my costume and headwear. I was going to have a tiara on my head!
Time went by too slowly for me. Whenever Mom had an hour or more to spare from all the household chores she did every day, she was working on my queen outfit. She was coughing a lot. Her face was quite red. Her eyes were red and a little swollen. Her nose was running. After dinner one evening, right before I went to my room to try to sleep early, I noticed Mom resting her head against the top of one of the arm chairs in our sitting room (the formal living room was kept for the many guests who visited my parents quite frequently). She didn’t look like Mom. Her face was even redder; her nose, even more so. Her overall demeanor was sluggish. She did not even notice that I was standing at the doorway looking at her intently.
“Good night, Mom. I’m going to bed. You know about my exams tomorrow. I will study a bit more and then will go to sleep.”
“Alright, Sweetie. Don’t be too long. You need your rest. I’ll see you in the morning. Good night, my darling.”
I couldn’t just leave her there like that. I turned around and asked: “Mom, are you alright? You look different.”
“I’m fine, Sweetie. Just a little tired, I guess. You go ahead and get a good night’s sleep.”
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23 Nisan Çocuk Bayramı was a dream come true! The stadium was full. The long walkway in front of the many stations where the parade stopped to receive applauses was dry enough after the heavy rain that had hit the entire city earlier that morning. I felt like what I thought queens would feel every single day: on cloud nine. My costume was perfect. My tiara was perfect. The way Mom made my hair was perfect. Everything was perfect.
On that Sunday, I overheard Dad talking to Mom in their bedroom. He was trying to convince her to see the doctor asap in the morning. Pneumonia was nothing to mess with.
Only much later would Dad tell me how sick Mom was throughout the time I kept pushing her to finish my costume. She had been running a high fever all along. It is only after Dad’s confession that I put two and two together to understand why Mom was wearing a heavy coat on a beautiful day in April and had even a scarf around her neck.
Thank you, Mom. Not only for that stunning costume you made for me. But for your selfless love.
*This short story is currently placed in my upcoming new book of prose, Once upon a Time in Turkey . . .