New Year’s Eve
Yola M. Caecenary
It only took a night, to change everything in my life, drag me into a deep hole of regrets. It was the night before a new year. As a family, we were supposed to be together at home. I was not able to meet that idea last year as I was bound to the company I worked with abroad.
“Mom, I’ll be home. I promise.”
“I know dear, but try to not come at the last moment. Many people miss you, here. Don’t you?”
“I miss you all a lot.” I sighed, “Ok, Mom. I’ll try my best to come home earlier.”
That was the last conversation I had with my mother before I headed to the airport the next week. I knew I would not be able to keep my promise since I already had the ticket for December 30 and it would be unlikely to change the date in peak season.
That night I landed at Atatȕrk. The rain had just stopped. The breeze touched my face and the cold sneaked in my jacket; made me tightened it a bit and adjusted my wool scarf. The airport was still busy. People are flying on the last day of the year for whatever reason. I queued for a taxi for almost an hour. Sitting at the back seat, I let the tiredness out of me. Five minutes meditation and breathing awareness always worked on me.
Opening my eyes, I created the scenes of togetherness with my family I’d soon have. I imagined how happy my sister would be when she opened the gift I bought. She always dreamed to have her own nook in her room where she can do her reading. I could see her brown eyes sparkle.
For my mother, who always had the desire to make the home a sweet home, a set of ivory linen tablecloth would make her smile.
And, for the handy man at home, who as far as I could remember could do and fix everything, a leather tool-box would keep his tools nicely.
I couldn’t deny how much I loved my family and how much I missed them, which now I realized.
I watched the street. Red lights from the cars’ brakes met the lights of the streets, created unnamed colors. The horn from the cars didn’t discourage anyone. People were cheerful and laughing.
It was still early evening. People were gathering with family or friends, celebrating the last night of the year. In order to welcome the New Year, the city dressed herself up to the nines. The buildings, the bridges, the shops, even the trees, none of them wished to miss the celebration.
The taxi driver kept talking about how bad the traffic was, especially that day. Moreover, as the traffic wasn’t bad enough, he told this bed-time story of how rainy couple of days had made Istanbul’s road felt like an ice skate rink. I decided to put my headphones in, listen to a bunch of music. I realized that was a mistake coming home on one of the busiest nights of the year. However, no one could run away from the situation. I closed my eyes, letting myself slip away for a while from the New Year’s Eve euphoria.
Istanbul, 31 December
“Günaydın, hayatım,” said father entering the living room.
“Günaydın, canım,” replied mother smiling.
“What time will Gina arrive?” asked father taking the newspaper.
“If there aren’t any delays, she will arrive in Istanbul in the late afternoon,” answered mother while preparing breakfast at the table. “She also asked us not to bother ourselves with picking her up at the airport. That’s what her message said.”
Father was just nodding opening the morning newspaper.
“Look at your daughter. She didn’t even bother to call. Only sending messages,” said mother again. She occupied with the çaydanlık in her hands.
Father pulled his head from the newspaper and looked at the woman he loved. Smiling he said,
“Don’t get bothered by small things, my dear. She must be busy. The most important is she will be home tonight and we will end this year together as a family,”
Mother looked at father and smiled back, a little smile to ease her heart.
“You always take her side.”
“I don’t take sides. I just try to understand her,” said father again with another smile. He folded the newspaper, walked to the table, and continued, “Do you remember, when she was little, she got this little gift from my brother. A glass-made sphere with Liberty Statue in it, and when we shook it, snow fell. From that time, she always said that one day she would go there and make her fortune. She wanted to conquer the world.”
“I remember everything. But aren’t you afraid that she would forget where she came from? Forgetting us?”
Father couldn’t help laughing, “Don’t you worry my dear. She will never forget us. How do I know? Because she is our daughter,” said father winking to his wife.
Mother smiled knowing that her husband was right. “Let’s eat,” said she.
“Ellerine saǧlık, hayatım.”
“Hayatım, I’m going out for a while,” said father while changing his sweater.
“Where are you going? Gina will come.”
“I want to buy Gina’s favorite chocolate cake, the one from the patisserie in Şişli. They’ll close earlier today and no one is able to do a delivery, so I must to get it myself.”
“Why don’t you buy it tomorrow? It’s very wet outside.”
“They won’t open tomorrow. Don’t worry. I won’t be long. I’ll be home before Gina.”
Gina, kızım, seni çok seviyorum.
I opened my eyes. Apparently, I’d fallen asleep and in my sleep, it seemed I could hear my father’s voice, clearly. I gathered myself, took a deep breath, and threw my attention through the window.
Slowly, the watered window turned into a screen. I was in that screen. Also were father and mother. We were sitting at the dining table; a place where not only for us to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but also for an important discussion took place. It was a pouring night. Thunder and lightning greeted the sky in turn. When I was a child that situation always frightened me and I always ran to my parents’ bedroom and sought a refuge from them. But, for that night, the thunder and lightning were my friends. I needed them to calm me a little bit.
That night, I told my parents about my decision to move to New York. I told them that I had sent several applications and one of them accepted it and they expected me to start in a month. I apologized for not telling it sooner. I waited for everything settled.
Mother was quite upset with me. She didn’t expect me to leave Istanbul.
“Why would you ever want to leave Istanbul? Don’t you think you can have a good job, here? You are a smart girl. Many companies would make a line for you, to offer you a respectable position in their companies,” said mother.
I was silent.
“Why are you leaving us?”
“Mother, this is not about leaving anyone. And, yes. I can have a good job here. But I’m pursuing my dream.” I was very determined.
“Gina, it’s very far. If something happens to you there—“
“Mother, you’ve always protected me. Since I was little, you and father were always there. And I couldn’t be more grateful having you as my parents. But I’m a grown-up. And I need to know how to live on my own, finding my own path.”
“You’ll know when I’m not around anymore,” said mother abruptly.
I was shocked. “Mother please don’t say like that. Why can’t you be happy for me? Why can’t you see it as an achievement?”
I rose from my chair and was about to leave the room. Father stopped me and asked me to sit down.
I was afraid to hurt my mother’s feeling if father wasn’t there. Gladly he was there. He understood me as he understood mother. He always had been the pacifier at home.
Father didn’t talk much. He’d never raised his voice. He never forced his will to anyone. But his words were always the last words.
“Gina, I know you still remember the story behind your birth.”
“You know how difficult for us to have you. It took us five years before we could hold you. In addition, you were born on the eighth month. Medical speaking, it is very rare to have an alive eighth-month-born baby.”
Father was silent for a moment, leaned forward then continued,
“Gina, kızım, you were a miracle for us. You and your sister are very precious to us. Later, when you become a parent, you’ll understand our point of views. But, you were right.”
Father put his palms on the surface of the table. A gesture he made when he usually was about to end the discussion.
“You are a grown-up. With or without our permission you could make a decision regarding to your life. Just remember, you are not alone. Wherever you are in this part of the world, you always have us here. And you will always be our daughter. Tamam mı?”
My heart was eased. I didn’t see mother remained hard either. She was more relaxed. Father rose from the chair and walked toward me. He kissed my forehead and stroked my hair.
“İyi geceler, kızım.”
“İyi geceler, Baba.”
“You have our blessing,” he whispered. I smiled.
I was alone with mother at the table. I rose from the chair then walked toward her. I put my arms around her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek.
“İyi geceler, Annem.”
“İyi geceler, yavrum.”
“Seni seviyorum,” said I again before I released my hug.
Entering the Bosphorus Bridge, the traffic was even worse. It was almost not moving at all. I almost spent an hour there. About 500 meters before the exit gate, I spotted a crowd on the side of the road. I opened my window when the taxi passed the crowd. The chill air burst in, made me almost to sneeze. I barely saw anything.
“Ah, abla, there seems an accident,” said the taxi driver.
I made an effort to look outside but I saw nothing but the crowd. Even after my taxi passed it, I still managed to try to look over.
The year will end in a few hours. How thing like this could happen? Who was in the car? How will the family take it? Questions popped up in my mind.
I arrived at home at 09.30 pm. The house was dark. I almost thought that I arrived at the wrong house when I found a piece of paper hung on the door handle with a piece of string. Gina, we tried to call you and left you messages … I left my luggage at the front door.
I ran like a mad, looking for a taxi.
Found none of them.
Losing my mind, I stopped a car passed by. The driver got out and scolded me.
I did not even listen to him and begged him to take me instead. He refused it and said that I had lost my mind. He was right, I had lost my mind, and I began to cry. Panicked, he agreed to take me. My cellphone was still off since the boarding and I hadn’t thought to turn it on. In the car, with the tears running, I turned it on and found all the messages sent.
The car’s owner kept asking me whether I was fine. I could not say a word. The nod was the only language I could deliver.
The car stopped in front of a hospital in Üsküdar. I said many thank yous and apologies to the driver before I got out of the car. I rushed inside the hospital and found my mother along with the rest of the family. I froze for a while, and then slowly my feet led me to meet them. My tears were running out again when I hugged my mother. Two hours passed then the doctor went out of the surgery. His face had delivered all the words unsaid. My mother fainted, my little sister screamed as hard as she could to release her pain. My knees nearly could not hold my legs as I found a seat. Fireworks were dancing, jumping, and shouting in the air. The year just passed, taking my father along with it.
It was the first day of the New Year. The sun shone through the chill air as the soil buried my father’s body and the earth embraced it. Tears were coming and going. I never dreamed that my coming home would be for the funeral of my father.
The police told us that even without excessive speed, the icy road made my father couldn’t control the steer and bumped into the edge of the bridge. He left his wife, my 9-year-old sister, and me.
Ben de seni çok seviyorum, Baba. I whispered to his grave before I left the cemetery. Thank you for saying it to me last night.
“Happy birthday, Babacıǧım. Saǧlık ve mutlu yıllar. İyi ki varsın.” I started the conversation when I called my father three months earlier.
“Saǧol, benim güzel kızım. Sen de iyi ki varsın”
“Babacıǧım, I’m sorry I cannot be there on your birthday. I couldn’t leave the work here. We are doing an important project right now.”
“Don’t you worry about anything, my daughter. You focus on your future there. We are fine here. Your support for us is more than enough. Don’t get me wrong, I would be really happy if you could be with us, but I understand you. Going there, pursuing your future is important to you.”
“Thank you, father. But, mother must be really upset with me, right?”
Father laughed, “Don’t worry. If she’s upset with you, it means she misses you and loves you.”
I laughed too.
That’s father. His understanding was as wide as an ocean. To mention his care, it struck me when I found out that the accident happened on his way back home from buying my favorite chocolate cake.
I was flooded with anger, sadness, and regret. I was sad losing a father, a hero, and my closest advisor. I regretted all the missed time between my father and me. I now realized how very few and short the moment I had with him were. I was very angry with myself. I was very angry and couldn’t help judging myself. I wished I hadn’t pursued my passion. I might have still had my father around. Knowing my father, I know he wouldn’t agree with those thoughts. But I was willing to do anything to have my father back. What was left, were only memories. If only I could regain the time and went back beyond than that night.