Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Lightness of Being

I love my boys. I love them from the tips of my toes to the top of head, a love that makes me talk in silly voices and do things I never thought I would do, but my evening out alone this week was fantastic.

As soon as school was over, I hopped in the car, set the ipod to John Mayer, rolled down the windows and hit the road. My destination was Istiklal Caddesi, Beyoglu, known as Pera in earlier times, a bustling hub of coolness and light. The gods were kind as my trip in was surprisingly easy, with little traffic and a wrong turn that was easily remedied. I was set to meet a group of ladies to talk about books, and I had two hours to kill. So I did what you do on on Istiklal: I walked.

Istiklal is a long street, lined with shops, cafes, bookstores and restaurants, with music blaring, street musicians busking and people chatting. It is cool, a place Koray and I used to frequent often when we were Ali Omer siz. Koray went to high school there and with his blues band Istanblues, played gigs at the various bars and nightclubs into the wee hours of the morning, so it was he that initially introduced me to this place. His wooing strategy was to show me all of the interesting and obscure places hidden away in the maze of neighborhoods connected to Istiklal. And it worked, hook, line and sinker. With the arrival of the boys, we stopped going, because when I say bustling, I mean teeming with thousands of people, not a great environment for two people dazed and confused from new parenthood. The first time we went back after the birth of our boys was on a New Year's morning. We strapped the boys on and ventured out when we knew the Beyoglu types were fast asleep or sipping their last bowl of iskembe, a soup notorious to be a hang over cure. It was empty and lovely. And big. The street, minus the sea of people, was unbelievably wide and for once, I was able to look up and soak in the beautiful architecture that towered above the streets.

So yesterday I parked the car, and hit the pavement. At first I felt like I had left something behind, and kept checking my bag, paranoid that I had dropped or forgotten something, or worried I had been unknowingly pick-pocketed. This reaction to traveling light comes from the fact that when we travel, we travel as an entourage. So the lightness of my sparsely packed bag combined with my free hands and mind was, is, a feeling alien to me. Since I didn't have to navigate around the thousands of people with a little person at my side, I found that I was remarkably swift and stealthy in the sea of people. I made it to Tunel in no time at all. On the way down, I noted shops and art galleries that I wanted to pop into on the way back (which I did), and made my way to a favorite restaurant, tucked away in a quiet alley. It was glorious. I ordered Thai vegetable soup and Vietnamese spring roles, and dined at a leisurely pace, reading my book and not thinking about game plans or refereeing dinosaurs and trains.

Something I noticed when I was walking back towards Taksim was how even in a crowd of thousands of people coupled with all of the noise from the shops and cafes, to me it was beautifully quiet. My mind wandered where it wanted and I just was.

I spent the rest of the evening talking about books and drinking coffee. I didn't get home until 11:30, and for those who know me well, know that this is about three hours past my usual bed time. I paid for it the next day. Regardless of when I go to bed, the days start bright and early with the pitter patter of growing feet followed closely by a running commentary that ends when the doors of the kres (pre-school) swing shut. But, I had plenty of good coffee to keep me awake and the experience of being alone for an evening was well worth the lack of sleep.

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