Füsun A.



Montréal, CANADA
January 12
Freelance Writer - jack of all genres;master of none.
warm and genuine
I divorced my full time career of teaching after 25 years, because meanwhile I fell in love with freelance writing. Ever since, I decided to legitimize my ten-year fling which started in the new millennium. Author of: "WILL OF MY OWN - A Memoir" Available at all major book outlets. For a preview please visit: http://www.dictionmatters.com/


Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 4, 2010 7:23PM

Call me a mean Mama

Rate: 62 Flag


The Family 

My daughter already forgave me by the time she was twenty. Until then every year around the holiday season I was reminded of the meanness of the act pulled upon young two souls, and questioned, “How could I?” - even though my intentions were pure and well-meant. But I know that, as with most things in life, lessons worth learning take time and the trials we stand may sting and hurt while we endure them.

I knew raising my children in a mixed-faith union would be a challenge – not that I or my husband had been a strict observer of either one's religion. He was born into a Roman Catholic family and rejected his faith; while I was born into a Muslim family who never obliged me to practice it. However I was expected to marry within the same faith. Youthful idealism of the eighties fooled both of us that if we raised our son and daughter in an unrestricted, open milieu they'd develop the wisdom to chose for themselves whichever faith their hearts favored in due time.

At least our hearts were in the right place.

Thus we celebrated, or rather acknowledged, the two Muslim holy days as well as Easter,  Thanksgiving and  Christmas along with birthdays in our household. In Islam, however, the holy days do not evolve around giving gifts. I would recount my children memories of my youth spent in Turkey and what we did on those Bayrams. One followed the month of Ramadan, so it was called the “festivity of sweets” - Seker Bayrami. The other has a parallel story to Abraham's sacrificing a lamb sent to him by God, just in time to spare his own son. So during the “festivity of sacrifice” - Kurban Bayrami - families who can afford, buy a lamb and have it sacrificed. They then give its meat to those who cannot afford to buy meat during the year.

I recall the repetition of certain motifs from the bayrams of my childhood, and like the well memorized nursery rhymes, whose intimacy provides a certain comfort and peace to one's soul, it was those remembrances that I often shared with my son and daughter. Years later I can still see two innocent faces, kissed with the wonder and limitless imagination of childhood. Their cheeks, cupped in their little hands supported on elbows resting on the floor as they lie on their bellies, listening to my stories of a long ago and far away land of bayrams and sacrificial lambs.

I was a stranger to the idea of buying gifts, exchanging presents, wrapping, decorating homes, boxing day or Christmas carols until I came to Canada. My holy days brought me a new pair of shoes and a new dress sewn by my mother twice a year for the occasions. After dressing in our Bayram garb, my sisters and I lined up to kiss Babacim's hand and lift it up to our forehead in respect to wish him a happy bayram. There would be a Lira coin exchanged in that hand kiss to which I always reacted in surprise and controlled happiness. That was our “bayram spending money”. We did not get an allowance at other times of the year because my parents bought whatever we needed. So with a whole lira coin each, my sisters and I felt like millionaires for a day knowing we could buy gum, candy, and a bagel - and still have change left over.

During the morning we visited the elderly friends, relatives and our teachers, bringing Turkish delight as a gesture of respect - and would be served the same with fruit juice, tea or coffee. In the afternoon, my parents received guests themselves. The radio was always on, from which happy tunes and Turkish folk music (türkü) permeated the air.

As a teen in Canada, I did enjoy the difference to which I was exposed. I loved the carols, the lights, the decorations on the store windows, the elusive magic in the air. We had none of that in my home. I secretly longed for Christmas. When my parents listened to Turkish LPs on the stereo cabinet on Christmas day, I hid in my basement room and listened to the carols on my little transistor radio. I started a little secret gift exchange with my sisters – a pair of earrings, a book, stationary. Then we decided to make this a legal practice and came out by asking our parents if we could give presents on New Year's Eve. They must've thought it was harmless enough. For the last three years before leaving my parental home, after our capon dinner, the laundry basket filled with small, gift wrapped boxes came out of its hiding place. And my sisters and I presented each other and our parents things like a diary with lock and key, an address book, a ball point pen, a mood ring, a pendant, favorite LP, a new pair of oven mittens. . .

I haven't been able to reconcile my memories of that time with the hype and commercialism associated with Christmas. I tried to spare my children that aspect as they integrated values from their parents' backgrounds – yet how could a ten year-old not be influenced when all she saw around her was temptation day after day ?

That winter my daughter and I were heading into rough waters as mother-daughter relationships sometimes do. Regardless, I decided to take a big chance and teach a lesson. I wrapped many little packages in attractive papers and placed them under the tree. I watched her pick up the boxes or cylinders, check for name tags, shake them up to her ear, place them back under the tree – night after night– discussing with her brother what each might be – in anticipation. Finally, on Christmas day after breakfast we gathered around our tree to open presents.

The first one she ripped open was a can of sardines. Ha! Ha! Her brother was holding a box of social tea biscuits  – with a question mark on his face. That was a sick joke. Next! A carton of Lipton chicken noodle soup? Why would she get a jar of peanut butter – or wholewheat crackers – even canned salmon, for that matter? He didn't even care for cream of celery soup ! What kind of a joke was this? Where were the real presents they had been asking for?!

Parents have to see eye to eye in these matters – have a strong, united front. Mine always did. I haven't been as lucky with my husband, but I survived the tempest my daughter stirred up. She and her brother did get what they wanted, after I had a talk with them –  in  their father's presence. I wanted to tell them that the packages they opened and tossed with an attitude were gifts some people would be more than thankful for. There are children who go hungry -  and to them a can of soup and a box of crackers with peanut butter would be a treat. I just wanted mine to take a moment and think of how fortunate they were, and appreciate their good fortune. Until then words hadn't meant much, and it is easy to take being blessed for granted.  After she calmed down, we all got in the car and took our non perishables to a foodbank.  That's how a familiy tradition started.

Those tempestuous years are long behind us, and my daughter has become the biggest environment conscientious preservationist I know now. She is against anything materialistic. Some lessons take a while to sink in, but their ramifications are big.

My new year's eve present offer from her this year is a recycled yogurt container full of worms – to start my indoor composting.  She promises I'll have black gold by spring.

the road not taken 

© 2010 Füsun Atalay ~ DictionMatters ~ All Rights Reserved 


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This may be my last piece if OS closes.
"My new year's eve present offer from her this year is a recycled yogurt container full of worms – to start my indoor composting. "

This is hilarious, you mean muslim mama.

Get her some recyclable oven mittens too.
Very interesting post. Your daughter sounds like a character.

your turkephile fusiephile friend,
You're a great Mama! Giving to your children from the deepest part of your heart and soul.
let us hope it doesn't close then

an intriguing look into different traditions, thank you for sharing this
This is awesome. The last paragraph came totally unexpected. Love it! Rated :)
P.S.: What do you mean, "if OS closes"!?
Fusun, this is a wonderful story with many lessons for all of us to learn. You taught your children well and I'm sure you are very proud of them. Please don't let this be your last piece. -R-
:) You're a wonderful mama and you know it.

Fusun, You are a great mother for teaching your kids this invaluable lesson. Plus, thank you for that image of little Fusun hiding away listening to carols on your transistor radio.

And Social Biscuits of all things. I recall when I was young, Mum wrapped up a box of social biscuits for me to give someone as a gift. I recall being so embarrassed. Little did I consider that from a family of ten, that was all we could afford.
Oh, dear, Fusie! I hope we won't lose our favorite hangout to this merger everyone's all a-buzz over. I suppose our plans for reconvening elsewhere may take time to fully evolve. Let's hope they aren't necessary after all.
As to this article, you illustrate a very good point, one I wish someone had outlined for me before I was grown. This is a different world than the one you and I were born into. Our kids must become wiser.
BTW, there is a small white porcelain swan on a try under my tree here in the living room. It would seem we have one more thing in common, eh? ;)
What a great lesson. You were't mean, you were concerned and there is a big difference. I wish I had thought of it!
I think it's so hard these days, kids expecting to get what they want all year long, and then the "extras" at the holidays. I don't think it's fair to make it all soap and underwear, but we could count on our stockings being full of things like tape, soap, toothpaste and pencils as well as a few treats. John is atheist, but likes to celebrate Christmas time with a tree and gifts (and an ornament of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), and the girls' mother is Jewish, so they want to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas with her as well. I think no one wants to give up on the getting, regardless of their professed faith.
You be not a mean mama at all, my dear friend ... but a very wise and beautiful teacher.
Well, you know how I feel. This was a great lesson in learning how most of the world's children live and try to survive, and what they are grateful for in their lives. I love your stories and your writing, Fusun.
gawd almighty! a yogurt container fulla worms!!!???
best intenstions, or intentions,
are often mistaken for worst.
Love for criticism...

are the things about being human i could do without.
Lovely, Fusun! ...I enjoyed all the various traditions, and your teachings. I am glad that your daughter reflects and lives the lessons you taught her. Great post. Do we have a plan B for posting if OS does go under? Thanks for this piece-I enjoy considering the blending of faiths. xo
"Some lessons take a while to sink in, but their ramifications are big." that was a wonderful lesson to teach both of them.
I love the idea of this so very much. If we don't teach our children about caring for those less fortunate, who will. Great post!
Love this piece! I struggle with the same issues/questions parenting my two munchkins - now eight and five. Our kids are growing up in a privileged and materialistic world. I stay up at night sometimes thinking about how to impart the values and lessons I learned growing to my own children, when their world is inundated by pop culture, gadgets and lavish gifts/vacations. For me it's all about finding the right balance.
I love reinventing traditions, and I love hearing your family stories, Fusun. Your daughter sounds like a delight! You did good.
Very wonderful, meaningful story of how to successfully raise children! Kudos to you! R
I love this story. You are a treasure.~r
What a wonderful story, from a great mama.

I rarely rate posts but this one deserved more than one if I could.
Great story, well written and a great piece of parenting.
Your children will be great adults in part because of this very experience.
Good for you.

What a gorgeous story and a good way to take two sets of traditions to build a new one. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
Do you really think OS is closing?
... I came late then?

This post was great.. you are an amazing mama
Enjoyed, very much FusunA.
What? Do you really think OS is closing? I'm not sure I'll ever be able to eat yogurt again. I'll surely be looking for all dem worms.
I heard something from Will Rogers a while ago. He talked about how stupid are parents are, until we are in our 20s. Then they somehow manage to become brilliant!

The same goes for our awful parents who suddenly manage to become incredible beings. And you are one of those.

I love you. Made me cry.
It is a difficult thing to give our daughters all the lessons they will need. You have done a wonderful job with yours.
One year, I had apologized to my daughter for raising her in poverty. And she surprised me and made me so proud of her when she said that she was glad that was so because it prevented her from being a consumer like the girls she had seen at school who were what they wore.
Kudos to you, FusunA.
Oh I loved the worm present!! Good for you. Here is a toast to many more posts of this quality.
What a wonderful lesson you taught them. It is amazing how we change. I have very little now. When you have lot you look for more.
I choose to be happy now with what I have.
rated with hugs
That is a great lesson, no matter what your heritage.
Great post. I never did anything like that (but the kids became socially conscious, environmental, etc. anyway, I'm happy to say), but in addition to their 'real' presents I gift-wrapped and put under the tree the year's supply of socks, mitts, etc., just to make it look good...
That last paragraph surprised me! Such a good write!

The world needs more moms like you.
The teacher in you was really at work that time, Fusun. I'll bet they never forgot that lesson. I'm interested in those beautiful swans above. The photo seems to say that you made them. They look like bisque porcelain! Stunning.

You sly devil: there was nothing cruel in this at all. Lovely tradition you started, and children you raised. Seems to me that your daughter has done exactly as you wished: chosen, through her own wisdom, what path to follow.

I found this phrase--"two innocent faces, kissed with the wonder and limitless imagination of childhood"--absolutely enchanting.
When my son was in third grade, his teacher asked the class what was "black gold". Her answer was oil. My son said "compost." I was so proud of him.
I had to laugh when I read about your difficulty in reconciling your memories with the hype and commercialism of Christmas. Heck, girl I have the same difficulty reconciling my own memories of how Christmas was celebrated when I was a kid with the crazy gluttony of spending we have today.

You come from a beautiful, rich culture and one I wish more people could come to know better.
Mama, a joyous ecumenical holiday season to you and your lucky family.

Is OS in danger of folding? If it does, can a blog be transferred elsewhere? Or will it be lost along with the friendships we've all made?
I love your stories! If OS does go away, where will you be? Will you post on FB?~R
Sometimes the lessons we pass on to our children are a bit like a compost pile - they take time to bear fruit. R.
If OS folds, I will miss your writing and your wisdom.
This reminds me so much of my childhood - being around family was the gift not getting stuff.

But for the last decade we've also exchanged New Year's gifts.... We were cheap and used to take advantage of all the Boxing Day sales at the Bay or Eaton Centre etc....

I also laughed out loud at the worms!
This is just lovely, Fusun.
A Reconciliation of Holidays Around The World which include Islamic traditions celebrated simultaneously with Season's Greetings!
Very sweet. You loved your children, so even if they had a momentary frustration, you showed them something deeper about giving. Give those worms some good trash to eat!
Your "mothering" sounds just lovely Fusun. I got here a day late but enjoyed every minute of it! :)
What a rich slice of life you described, not one I'd exactly been exposed to. Tuna, hahaha! How cruel, or useful can that be? It's a constant learning experience. And I forget -- she gets her PMS, then her period. I'm just fading away gracefully, no worries about monthly mood swings.
First of all, I hope this won't be your last post! Secondly, thanks for such a lovely one! I really enjoyed reading about your childhood holiday experiences and their beautiful and honest simplicity. The trick you pulled with your own children was indeed bold, but I'm glad it turned out so well in the end! R!
This better not be your "last piece"! So glad to see you on the cover with this admirable story!
(See? I came back for seconds!!)
I guess she got her revenge with her surpise gift to you!
A nice family tradition.
Wonderful story! Gives me an idea of how I would like to treat Christmas when I have children of my own! I wish my parents had been as thoughtful as you!
I was raised Seventh-day Adventist and my wife is a Muslim from Surabaya Java Indonesia, so we do a mix of both festivals also, the feast after Ramadan and the feast of the sacrifice, as well as Christmas and others.

I personally enclose all world religions in my world view. My daughters are still young. I hope they grow up enjoying the complexity of world cultures and religions that honor the historical events of people in the past through the rituals of holidays.
I hope children of mixed faiths make our world a more accepting place and bring a better future.
What a good mama-thing to do for your children! Using material things to teach a lesson about materialism. Brilliant.

I have some similar swans that belonged to my grandma. R