Family Matters

By Nagihan Mutlu



When I visited one of my best friends in 2010 and spent Christmas with her family in the city of 09°06'E & 49°58'N, their neighbours, who were Turkish immigrants like her family, came for afternoon teas. During my stay, I came to realise how boring my family reunions were.

The main topics of my family reunions with respect to their utilisation rates are: 1) weather; 2) health problems (this item has risen in the ranks over the past 20+ years); 3) who is going to marry whom that summer (the range of who consisting from immediate relatives to the daughter of the son-in-law of a distant cousin of a neighbour; 4) who is going to have babies that year; 5) people who have yet to marry; 6) people who have married but are yet to have kids. Also starring divorced couples (Note: Divorced couples do not appear in every episode but if they do, they will dominate the conversation). I could have added a few more items to this list, but studying the rug patterns during some of the conversations was more engaging.

With my family reunions have this sort of background story so short of anything exciting, it may come as a surprise to some that I have, again, found myself staring at the rug patterns in my host's house, but this time because I had no idea of how to cope with the intensity of the stories people were telling. The young woman, with her 2-year old son in her lap, was telling of how she learned that her husband was married to someone else. He had another household, wife and kids under a different name in another German city. His secret was revealed by a misaddressed traffic fine.

The others in the room had known about the story and I was the intended audience, or rather the latest justification for the story to be re-told. I had only met her 10 minutes before I watched her break into tears. She was ashamed of her story, and even more ashamed that she was regretting the divorce. Raising a kid alone was proving to be harder each day and I was progressing further into the cushion with each passing second.

Traumatic stories kept coming from the other neighbours. An old couple found ingenious ways to tie the conversation to money; a tell-tale sign of their lonely lives. Their kids did not visit them, they did not have many relatives alive back in Turkey either, and yet, they really wanted to return, too. Return to where, or who? These were questions with intangible answers. Money, it seemed to me, provided them with the justification they needed to continue their lives in seclusion, so they kept reminding themselves why they were there. It was a tangible answer to some questions, at least.

Then there was the woman who migrated to escape from her abusive husband at the expense of leaving her daughter behind with her parents. Or one of the cousins who was bad news, had now set his eyes on a new girl and the family council was not sure how to proceed: Should they warn the girl, or would this girl help the bad guy become a bit more decent? After all, love could cure, right? The neighbours, the relatives, I notice they all had their burden of stories. They either had a reason to relocate other than being bitten by the travel bug, or their relocation made them vulnerable in some sense, it magnified some problems while erasing others.

5 years, 88.44 parallels and 142.14 meridians later, my 63-year-old Australian flatmate told me today that the photograph of her father she had been showing her friends turned out to be an unused postcard. And that was the only surviving image of her dad, at least the only one she ever had. I could not dare ask what happened[l1] . Boring stories of my relatives never seemed more appealing, I had to admit to myself. At least, I knew how to deal with them.

Being on this side of the world and thinking about family reminded me of a friend of mine and his father's story. His father had a few fiancées at the same time and when of them broke the news about her pregnancy, his dad's first reaction was to flee the country and embark on the next ship from London to Australia. In his case, his escape was not from a traumatic past, but from a circumscribed future. And his escape created some traumatic stories for those left behind. Maybe he, like me, found the family matters too boring. For some reason, this music





















started playing in my head when I tried imagining him on the next ship, escaping from the responsibility of being a father and embracing the unknown land instead. ‘What sort of dark and twisted fears did he have?’ I wondered. I suppose, family matters in more peculiar ways than I can ever comprehend. I will happily loose myself in the tapestry patterns next time.





*   Intro of Fear of the Dark. Retrieved from


born and raised in Silivri
decided to make a move to Freiburg
after working as an engineer.  

Back to uni now,
living in/with the dream of reading and writing.

She has a somewhat unused blog in Turkish and an instagram: ariadoe