It all happened when my youngest sister and I decided to get together for another one of our unforgettable reunions whenever she visits Montreal. She had recently returned from a vacation in Turkey and had so many memories to share in digital photos that witness some of her stories. And I was ready to savour every word, view each picture she snapped in a land from which I have been away far, too long.
One doesn't notice how moments fly by on such occasions. One story leads to another, and the chain gets longer as we lose our concept of time, in a knotted labyrinth of the past and the present, the onslaught of our childhood memories, juxtaposed with recent ones of our motherland. We each settle on a sofa, the coffee table filled with pages of writing I want to show her, my laptop to click on photo albums, our current knitting projects of a scarf or a sweater (the latter hers since she's a more advanced knitter), and abandon ourselves to the celebration of being once again together. OSman comes and goes, nibbling on his Atlantic salmon flavoured food with “hairball control formula”. We sip our gin and tonic, laugh, reminisce, and even share a few tears. Not sad, just nostalgic or joyous tears created by the magic of the moment.
I am totally absorbed, taking mental notes, silently acknowledging writing inspirations, and feeling a warmth and joy akin to that of Diane Lane's character in Under the Tuscan Sun. The cream of roasted butternut squash soup I prepared the night before just needs heating and adding some cream at the last minute. The olive-oil cake with fresh red grapes embedded in its puffy, light surface is cooling nicely.
My cool sister is a multitasker: she can knit while she is talking and clicking a mouse concurrently as she sips from her lime studded drink. She has long grown out of her childhood habit of breaking glasses, spilling drinks or walking into doors. Never clumsy, just endearingly accident-prone. She's also a very self-sufficient individual who has everything one may need during the course of a day away from home, in her shoulder bag. Purse-sized sewing kit to sew an undone hem or to mend a small hole on her glove; echo-friendly-first-aid kit; organic fair trade brown cane sugar; Star Bucks instant espresso powder pouch; toothbrush and travel size tooth paste; mini tube of hand lotion. . . Perhaps the saying “everything but the kitchen sink” is not too far from the truth.
She decides to augment the ambiance of our cozy world that afternoon and takes a lavender table candle out of her bag. She lights it while I step into the kitchen to start heating our soup. Then I hear her laughter and her voice announcing she finally found the photo we had been looking for in her files. I have to see it! I turn off the stove top burner (just in case) and return to look at this new friend she made. And as my instinct had sensed, I stay there marvelling at more photo after photo of Istanbul and the Aegean scenes.
When both of us speak the same words simultaneously, like close friends sometimes do, it is to ask each other, “Do you notice a burning smell?”
That's when I jump out of my seat and run into the kitchen, alarmed at my memory which had assured me I had turned off the burner. Fortunately, I was right – nothing is boiling over. The relief fills me with assurance and I return to join my sister in the den. Another words and visions loaded minute lapses and this time we are sure of smelling burned rubber.
Inci gets up and opens the patio door for air, and a chilly November evening breeze carrying what she decides is a skunk odor, wafts into our nostrils. I hear the far off sound of an ambulance at that instant, and I'm certain that there must have been an automobile accident somewhere off the highway.
"Besides,” I dispute, “skunks wouldn't dare to hang around this late in the season.”
We decide to take a break and have dinner. Inci goes to set the table and I sit before the laptop to put it into hibernation while we dine. But I see a strange photo almost superimposed over the last one of the Bergama ruins. I call my sister to ask what that picture is all about. She returns and immediately she gasps and runs to the other end of coffee table.
“Oh, no! Oh, I'm so sorry Füsun'cum!"
I follow her to see that the candle she just put out has been working its flame slowly through the open screen of my laptop until it appeared on the front. That black round with the coppery dark frame I saw wasn't a glorious sunset over the Anatolian landscape. It was the burn working its way through, melting the screen from outside in!
We are frozen in our horror and shock. Incredulous at what a tiny candlelight can do and fearful of the implications. But what is done is done and we cannot undo it. So we hug and surrender to laughter at the silliness that caused this bizarre accident. Then we start naming things that could have been worse.
“At least it didn't cause a fire. . .”
“Yes, and we still have our health!"
“Better a damage to an object than to ourselves.”
Instinct makes me reach out for my camera and record the moment for posterity. Many photos of this strange looking thing melting down my trusty laptop. It looks like a face, a head in a helmet. No, it is Darth Vader!
And this is how my laptop was damaged and became dysfunctional keeping me away from e-mail and Open Salon. Today I have a new one and I'm still getting used to it. The young man at the computer store said he never saw anything like it. I had to leave it there for a week as I decided to select another one while he attempted in ways that are foreign to me, to recoup as much data to transfer to the new one.
Life is full of events that provide a perspective for us. Each new day brings something we didn't expect – no matter how insignificant or profound. I have learned in life to look at life as I used to through raindrops landing on the windshield while Babacim drove me and my sisters to downtown campuses. I described that perception in my personal memoir. Seeing life through a raindrop, from the outside in, helps to make sense of senseless things.
Because strange things do happen - even where skunks fear to tread.
But as one of my favorite bards wrote, "All's well that ends well". So, here is a bonus (recipe) to thank all those who've read this story.
OLIVE OIL GRAPE CAKE
5 large eggs, separated
a pinch of salt
7/8 cup sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
fine zest of: 1 Orange and 1 Lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup sifted flour
16 - 20 fresh, seedless red grapes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until glossy and stiff, set aside.
Add sugar to yolks and beat until light. Add olive oil and lemon juice, beat ntil well combined. Stir in the zests.
Add flour, stir until combined.
Fold yolk-flour mix into beaten whites until no white streaks show. Do not over-fold.
Pour into greased 9 or 10" round pie dish (that's what I have - Pyrex); place grapes on top of the cake gently to cover the surface (dont push in much).
Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. After the first 12-15 minutes check the top and if necessary, cover lightly with aliminun foil (to prevent burning).
When the cake is out, brusth it with the 1 T of olive oil and fill brown sugar into craters created by the grapes, and the top.
Bon Apétit! Afiyet olsun!
~ • ♥ • ~
Photo Credits: F. Atalay
Füsun Atalay ~ Copyright © Will of my Own - 2011