Category Archives: short stories

A Proem

Proem

Bir varmış, bir yokmuş . . .

The phrase above echoes the opening lines of a fairy tale in Turkish. How often have I heard them as a child! Little did I know that, one hot summer day in 2016 while sitting on my small patio, I would conceive in those four words the title of this book, my first fictional prose – or better yet, my first autobiographical fiction. I cannot count the nights when my mother would read to me my most favorite children stories from classical Turkish literary traditions, each time starting with “Once upon a Time”. I do not remember at what age I began to talk legibly, but I suspect my first utterances were, “bir varmış, bir yokmuş” . . .

In our human existence, there is one core three-way reality: We are born, we live, and we die. Throughout that in-between-phase, we hope that our lives have mattered to our beloveds. It is the hope for permanence; that we live on beyond our death. This collection is my attempt to seek such a permanent memory for my loved ones. At the same time, it is my tribute to those beloveds of mine who are no longer here in the realm of what we perceive to be our reality. It is my way of proving to myself that their lives mattered and continue to matter.

Once upon a Time in Turkey is anything but a fairy tale. Hence, my reference above to the hybrid genre, fictional autobiography. In my stories, I indulge myself in taking the liberty to work hand-in-hand with those elements of literature that are inherent in and integral to creative fiction: the stories I share with you inside are true indeed. They are, however, dressed in imaginary attires – masks and costumes, if you will. While flashbacks comprise their stronghold, they do not come to surface in any particular chronological order. As a stream of consciousness, I have taken poetic license randomly in helping them step out of their cold-blooded and often sad realities. My intent was to construct a short-prose assembly in order to put in writing how I remembered my interactions with my loved ones over the many magical years throughout which they had gifted me with immense love, joy, happiness, and unconditional support.

Laughter, tears, surprises, enchantments, anticipations, fears, suspicions, regrets, resentments and loves . . . decided on that hot summer day in 2016 to wake up my spirit which had been asleep for too long. All the emotions, thoughts and experiences no longer wanted to be pushed back to the most remote corners of my consciousness. Nor did any of them choose to stay numbed inside my heart anymore. They demanded to be listened to. So, my unforgotten memories began to voice themselves in me.

It is my hope that you will join me around this gathering of tales; tales that traveled from my country of birth, Turkey to reach your  hearts. May you receive them in their intended spirit and feel joy, however small, alongside mine with which I have been privileged to live throughout my life as a Turkish girl, teenager and young woman. 

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The preface to my pending book of autobiographical short stories, Once upon a Time in Turkey

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A Short Story

“Sister, I Love You But . . .”

I remember the setting as if I am there today. My grandfather’s home in Istanbul, that is. For many years, he lived in one of the many picturesque old multi-story houses. To my eyes as a little girl then, the decorative iron gate seemed gigantic. A flagstone walkway surrounded by a garden of a large variety of flowers led to the entry door. Entering the grounds alone was magical. Unless my parents made an effort to take us to neighborhoods with private homes, such sight was not at all common in Ankara where we lived. Flats in tall apartment buildings were most popular in Turkey’s capital. My Mom always compensated the lack of nature by filling our home with plants and fresh flowers. Still, her father’s place mesmerized us all.

Grandpa also had a fenced-off vegetable garden, which stood in the back on a large piece of land. He had had a swing set installed for my brother and me so that we could have fun whenever we visited him and his wife. That delightful entertainment piece sat very close to the low-lying stone walls way in the back. Together with the many sets of big trees, the walls were separating Grandpa’s home from those of the neighbors. The house had several balconies. One was situated on the second floor right outside the kitchen and offered a clear view of the swing set. My brother and I loved spending our time there, while Mom and Grandpa’s wife prepared a delicious meal for us to enjoy on that balcony.

It was almost breakfast time one day. The adults were making the preparations. My brother and I asked Mom if we could go to the backyard. Before she could finish saying, “Yes, just be careful”, we were out the door. Off to the swing set we went. We took turns pushing. During the last round of our fun activity, I was on the swing. All of a sudden, a dog appeared along the stone wall. At first, he kept its distance, but was barking at us nonstop. In a soft voice, my brother said, “Hülya, don’t be scared. I am here. He can’t do anything to you. I am not going to push you anymore, because we should race home once you get down.” I remember being terrified. I shut my eyes so tightly that I felt a little dizzy. I don’t know anymore how many minutes it took for the swing to lose its speed. I heard my brother’s voice again. This time, it was coming from a distance. He was shouting, “Mom and Grandpa are on their way to get you. The dog ran toward the trees. Hülya, I love you but I have to make a go for it!”

When I finally opened my eyes – still sitting on the swing, Mom and Grandpa were right beside me. No sight of that dog. No sight of my brother, either. To this date, I don’t know how he did it (and forgot to ask him every time I had a chance to find out that morning’s details). But he somehow had managed to climb up the stone wall to safety – waving at us all, beaming shyly.    

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